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Genetic breakthrough for spine condition

A genetic breakthrough into the causes of an incurable spine condition could help tens of thousands of young people to avoid pain and disability. Scientists from the University of Bristol have discovered seven genes involved in ankylosing spondylitis (AS), an auto-immune arthritis that causes debilitating joint pain for 200,000 Britons.

The findings pave the way for better diagnostic tests and new treatments, but could also prove important for other conditions, according to research in Nature Genetics.

Two of the seven genetic mutations are also involved in other common auto-immune diseases including Crohn's disease and coeliac disease. AS affects one in every 200 Europeans, and is three times more common in men than women.

Common symptoms, which tend to manifest themselves in the late teens or early 20s, include episodes of severe stiffness and pain in the lower back, although the pelvis, neck, hip and knees can also be affected.