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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Genetics Program

The RA Genetics program is a research initiative dedicated to identifying the genes that cause susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis. The program is based upon the genetic analysis of RA patients and their families compiled from Mount Sinai Hospital and other Toronto rheumatologists.

DNA from research study participants is analyzed using hundreds of genetic markers to identify which genes are most likely to be causal factors for the disease. This information provides a framework for defining the cellular events which link genetic predisposition to disease. Thus, novel therapeutic strategies can be developed to either prevent disease or provide better outcomes for affected individuals.

Discovery of the genes responsible for RA requires extensive clinical collaboration and expertise, patient cooperation, the availability of state-of-the-art genotyping, statistical genetics and bioinformatics facilities.

The clinical expertise and patient infrastructure is well established at Mount Sinai Hospital. It is integrated into the program through the work of numerous clinical coordinators and database managers. The genotyping, statistical genetics and bioinformatics capabilities are also available to the program through collaborations with other Toronto investigators. These latter components of the project are currently supported by operating and equipment grants from numerous agencies including: The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Ontario Innovations Trust (OIT) and Genome Canada.

The genetic information gained through this program provides the potential to predict the course of disease and customize treatment on an individual basis. The genetic program complements the work done in Clinical Epidemiology, The Rheumatoid & Early Arthritis (TREAT) and Biologic Therapeutics programs respectively headed by Drs. Claire Bombardier, Vivian Bykerk and Ed Keystone.

A major objective of the RA genetics program is to develop the computational infrastructure that enables rapid linkage of clinical, medicinal and genetic data so as to isolate not only the genes which predispose someone to RA, but also the genetic variants that determine the severity of disease, prognosis and response to specific medications.