Understanding the role of T cells in ankylosing spondylitis

Disease - Ankylosing spondylitis

Lead applicant - Dr Liye Chen

Organisation - University of Oxford

Type of grant - Career development fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £400,657.09

Start date - 1 April 2019

Reference - 22053

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints in your spine. Current treatments do not work well for everyone with the condition. T cells, a type of immune cell that initiate and control the body’s response to infection, have been shown to be important in causing ankylosing spondylitis. This research will help us to understand how T cells are involved in causing disease and identify potential new treatments that specifically target the disease-causing T cells.

Why is this research important?

We know that some types of white blood cell, including T cells, play an important role in causing ankylosing spondylitis. While biological therapies are now available for treating conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, they don't always work, require injections, and can weaken the body's immune response resulting in infections. The results of this research will help us understand how T cells contribute to disease, and more importantly, how they can be targeted to prevent or treat disease.

The research team will combine existing knowledge of the >100 genes associated with ankylosing spondylitis (identified through studies funded by Versus Arthritis and others) together with information on the different genes active in T cells. This will then allow them to identify the top 20 genes and proteins involved in controlling T cell activity in people with ankylosing spondylitis. Following this, the researchers will look at the effects of switching off these genes in T cells taken from people with this condition compared to people without. The results of this work will identify which molecules are the most promising for developing new treatments.

How will the findings benefit people with arthritis?

This research will provide a greater understanding of ankylosing spondylitis and could lead to the development of new and more effective treatments for the condition. These new treatment targets could also be effective for other forms of inflammatory arthritis, including psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.