According to a recent article from EurekAlert!, researchers used data from the Swedish Twin Registry and found that most of the 7 diseases they were studying were inherited. The second finding which was accomplished by studying clusters of diseases concerns the fact that certain diseases may be related.
The researchers will discuss their findings in detail at ENDO 2019 which is the Endocrine Society’s annual gathering of scientists and researchers.
The researchers believe that their discoveries will not only provide valuable information about the cause of autoimmunity but also give a clear picture of relationships across a broad spectrum of disease. It will be useful in patient education and autoimmune risk counseling.
Concordance – Agreement in Data Occurring in Natural Pairs
The reason for the study of twins came about because it is well known in the scientific community that autoimmune disorders may occur in several members of the same family.
If in a set of twins, both twins have the same disease, that would contribute towards the concordance rate which is the focal point of the study.
If the concordance rate is higher in identical twins than it is in non-identical twins, it would indicate a genetic influence.
Then we move to heritability, which the researchers calculated using the information they acquired from the study of twins. Heritability measures what degree of susceptibility to a disease may be due to genetic factors.
When measuring autoimmune clustering, the researchers coined the term “pseudoconcordance”. This term refers to a pair of twins each having a dissimilar autoimmune disease.
A List of Autoimmune Diseases
The study showed that the following autoimmune diseases were affected by genes where the heritability was higher than 85%:
- Addison’s disease: decreased production of two important hormones; primary adrenal insufficiency
- Celiac disease
- Type 1 diabetes
Whereas the following is attributed to environmental factors:
- Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism: underactive thyroid
- Vitiligo: skin disease
- Graves’ disease: overactive thyroid
- Atrophic gastritis: chronic inflammation of the stomach
Addison’s disease and vitiligo evidenced high clustering while the clustering was low in celiac disease. The researchers found that the former overlap with other diseases while this seldom occurs with celiac disease.
Some of the most serious health problems are now being studied and treated by endocrinologists, many of whom are members of the Endocrine Society. The Society is known to be the largest in the world. Its members specialize in hormone research and related conditions.