Genes, which are responsible for an inflammatory disease known as the Silk Route disease since it spread all along the old silk trading routes, have been identified by scientists.
University of Manchester researchers have revealed some of the genetic mutations that lead to Behcet's disease, also called the Silk Route disease.
Behcet's disease makes the body's normal inflammatory immune response overactive and destroys blood vessels - leading to severe mouth and genital ulcers and skin lesions, and even blindness.
The researchers carried out genetic tests on almost 2,500 Turkish volunteers, 1,215 people with Behcet's disease and 1,278 healthy individuals and found an increased risk of disease was associated with three genes - HLA-B51, IL10, IL23R-IL12RB2.
"By identifying the genetic factors in Behcet's disease we will be in a position to establish the biological and biochemical pathways that cause the disease pathology," said Bill Ollier, Professor of Imunogenetics and Director of the University's Centre for Integrated Genomic Medical Research (CIGMR).
"Our other long-term ambition is that we could use genetic testing to identify early cases in families with a history of the disease and predict which patients will have a more severe disease course and consequently require a more aggressive therapy," he added.
The group's findings are published in Nature Genetics.