Despite recent progress, the pathogenic mechanisms governing PBC development, treatment response and outcome remain unknown. This deficiency is in large part due to the complex nature of PBC, wherein various environmental factors may be capable of prompting disease, but only in the context of underlying genetic susceptibility. Identification of genomic loci containing these heritable risk factors has been slowed by the rarity and late onset of PBC, which has made difficult the collection of sufficient numbers of patients and family members for meaningful genetic analyses. Advancements in our ability to catalog the genetic variation in large numbers of individuals at a genome-wide scale, coupled with unprecedented efforts to recruit PBC patients for genetic study, positions us to generate data that could fundamentally change our understanding of PBC and lead to clinical innovation. Indeed, the first genome-wide association study for PBC has been published, in which multiple genes involved with IL12 signaling, a pathway that is being targeted in treatment of other inflammatory conditions, were implicated in disease. However, this study was relatively small in the genome-wide milieu and a significantly expanded effort will be necessary to truly elucidate the genetic architecture of PBC. Moving ahead, cooperation between the groups collecting biospecimens and generating genome-wide data from large numbers of patients with PBC will be essential, not only to increase power for fine mapping and future studies of rare variants and epistasis; but to streamline efforts to perform functional validation of novel discoveries. Here we provide a brief update of the current state of genetics in PBC to form a basis for understanding the considerable progress that is likely to be made in the coming years.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy