Editorials

Genetic traits in common diseases

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6993.1482 (Published 10 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1482
  1. Anthony G Wilson,
  2. Gordon W Duff
  1. Senior registrar Florey professor of molecular medicine Section of Molecular Medicine, Department of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Sheffield, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield S10 2JF

    Support the adage that autoimmunity is the price paid for eradicating infectious diseases

    An important current topic of medical research is the localisation of genes implicated in the susceptibility to common chronic diseases such as insulin dependent diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. This has been greatly facilitated by the use of the polymerase chain reaction to characterise polymorphic microsatellite markers and the advent of automated technology and computer software to construct high resolution genetic maps covering the entire genome.

    A recent example of the success of these methods occurred in the genome-wide search in families for genes conferring susceptibility to insulin dependent diabetes.1 Population studies, based on epidemiological principles, test the association of disease with specific genetic markers, and recent advances have also been made with this approach.

    Most of these common diseases are clearly polygenic, involving several loci, and many population association studies leave little doubt that an appreciable genetic component of immunopathology lies in the major histocompatibility complex. This is a four megabase stretch of DNA (about …

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