Molecular ‘sulfation’ changes: a new pathway driving inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis?

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis

Lead applicant - Professor Claudia Monaco

Organisation - Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £152,927.34

Start date - 1 October 2016

Reference - 21245

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

It has recently been shown that a process, called sulfation, is important for controlling the activity of protective molecules in many parts of the body, including the immune system. The control of a group of sulfation genes has been found to be dysregulated within the joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis. This project aims to identify the effect these genes have on inflammation and how they contribute to the persistent inflammation seen in rheumatoid arthritis.

Why is this research important?

While biological therapies have revolutionised treatment of rheumatoid arthritis for many, there are still a number of people who do not benefit from these. Therefore, there remains a need for new treatments. This study will investigate a group of sulfation genes, which have been identified as important regulators of the inflammatory response in healthy individuals, and the effect of their dysregulation in rheumatoid arthritis.

This project will use immune cells from healthy individuals to investigate the normal role of these genes, and then examine samples from patients with rheumatoid arthritis to identify changes which occur as a result of disease. Mouse models of arthritis will also be used to investigate at which stages of disease dysregulation may occur.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Improved understanding of how the sulfation genes regulate inflammation and how they are subsequently dysregulated in rheumatoid arthritis will provide the groundwork to identify new targets for new and improved treatments. Such therapies may have the potential to slow or halt the development of rheumatoid arthritis, both improving quality of life for people living with the disease and reducing medical costs to the NHS and wider society.