Genomics researchers analyzing a rare, serious immunodeficiency disease in children have discovered links to a gene crucial to the body’s defense against infections. The finding may represent an inviting target for drugs to treat common variable immunodeficiency (CVID). The researchers found 11 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on the 16p11.2 locus of chromosome 16. SNPs are changes in one letter of DNA, compared to the more typical sequence at a given location. Of particular interest, the study team found variants in the gene ITGAM, carrying codes for an integrin protein, which regulates cellular contact and adhesion.
The team explain that this association is of high biological relevance, because ITGAM plays an important role in normal immune responses. Other researchers have shown that mice in which this gene has been knocked out have immune deficiencies. The team add that the current study may have broader implications for patients who do not have these specific rare variants, because the integrin protein affects many important pathways in immune function.
A child with CVID has a low level of antibodies, reducing the body’s ability to fight disease, and leaving the child vulnerable to recurrent infections. CVID can first occur early or later in life, and the symptoms are highly variable. Frequent respiratory infections may lead to permanent lung damage. Patients may also suffer joint inflammation, stomach and bowel disorders, and a higher risk of cancers.
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