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Genetic variant protects against rash of autoimmune diseases

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2:00pm, November 2, 2016

A study of genetic data from 36,000 people with autoimmune diseases shows that dialing down a protein's activity — but not knocking it completely out — may provide a new way to calm overactive immune systems without raising the risk of getting infections.

Tweaking activity of one protein may help protect against 10 autoimmune diseases, a new study suggests. The protein, tyrosine kinase 2 or TYK2, helps regulate how strongly the immune system responds to threats.

Using genetic data from more than 36,000 people with a variety of auto­immune diseases, researchers found that one genetic variant in the gene that codes for the TYK2 protein protects against a wide range of diseases that cause the immune system to attack the body. The variant changes one amino acid in the protein. As a result, the protein’s activity is greatly reduced, but not completely eliminated, researchers report November 2 in Science Translational Medicine.

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