Narrator: This is Science Today. Rheumatoid arthritis is a relatively common autoimmune disease, affecting over two million people in the United States. Although there's a range of severity, overall it's very disabling. Lindsey Criswell is a rheumatologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
Criswell: It causes pain and swelling and eventually deformity of the joints. Sometimes that results in permanent loss of the use of hands or feet for example.
Narrator: While most patients respond well to existing treatments, long-term use of high dose drugs can cause serious side effects. So Criswell is working to identify three to six genes which play a role in rheumatoid arthritis.
Criswell: Many of the medicines, most really, that we have right now either generally decrease inflammation or generally decrease the immune system but they aren't targeting the root cause of rheumatoid arthritis. So once we identify the root causes of the disease, we'll be in a much better position to develop treatments.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.