What causes the body to raise immune responses against its own cells in arthritis?

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis

Lead applicant - Professor David Sansom

Organisation - University College London

Type of grant - Programme Grant Full application

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £428,955

Start date - 1 December 2016

Reference -21147

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

There are currently more than 100 genes associated with rheumatoid arthritis, a large number of which affect the immune system, particularly cells called T-cells, which are inappropriately activated to attack the body's own cells, leading to inflammation.

Many of the genes identified exhibit only very subtle alterations and in most cases it is still not understood how these affect immune function. The aim of this research is to reveal the collections of genes that control the activation of T-cells in autoimmune disease, and reveal the mechanisms through which they do this.

Why is this research important?

This research will investigate T-cell activation and function in healthy people compared to those with autoimmune disease to identify genetic changes which control particular responses. This will provide an essential link between areas of DNA and immune function and will reveal further insight into how minor genetic changes affect the function of T-cells in people with arthritis.

Understanding the combinations of changes that have the most profound effect on the immune response is key to understanding the cause of arthritis and how to treat it more effectively.

How will the findings benefit patients?

This research may lead to being able to predict a person’s immune responsiveness from their genetic background and identify patients which will respond better to certain treatments, helping them and their doctors choose the best option.