Before Walt Disney’s Fantasia featuring Mickey Mouse, Goethe gave the world the image of the sorcerer’s apprentice — cutting his broom progressively in half in an attempt to complete the task of cleaning up the sorcerer’s workshop. This is a perfect image for advances with ever finer examinations of the HLA locus with new genetic probes and methodologies. The sorcerers will be up all night at their computers, cleaning up the laboratory — flooded with data.
A recent advance appears in the current issue of Nature Genetics. Hughes et al extensively genotyped over six hundred Turkish and Italian patients with Behcet’s disease. The association of Behcet’s disease with HLA-B*51 tumbled, or was drowned, in the tsunami of data and will no longer be a correct answer on multiple choice exams. Strong associations with one of the loci in the HLA region associated with psoriasis (PSOR1C1) were present, as was the association with a locus between HLA-B and the MICA locus, in both the Turkish and the Italian cohorts. And the search and the analysis will go on. Clinicians and immunologists will ponder the possible links between Behcet’s disease and psoriasis. The publication ends with a prescient comment that many of the other ‘known’ HLA association may yield more and even useful information with the higher density forms of genetic analysis that are now possible. There will be many more buckets of data generated while the sorcerer’s workshop is being cleaned.
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