Understanding the role of gut bacteria and regulatory B cells in controlling rheumatoid arthritis and lupus

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis

Lead applicant - Professor Claudia Mauri

Organisation - University College London

Type of grant - Programme Grant Full application

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £916,636.02

Start date - 1 January 2016

Reference - 21140

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

The aim of this research is to further the understanding of the role of gut bacteria in the development of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The team will compare the function of immune cells called regulatory B cells in healthy individuals to those with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. This research will also identify any bacteria in the gut that affect regulatory B cells or induce inflammatory arthritis.

Why is this research important?

Regulatory B cells are a type of white blood cell that, in healthy individuals, help the immune system to protect the body against excessive inflammation. In lupus or rheumatoid arthritis these cells don't work properly and this contributes to disease. What causes these regulatory B cells to become faulty is not currently fully understood. However, it was recently found that the bacteria in the gut influence the development of regulatory B cells as well as arthritis. This research project will investigate the signals that instruct B cells to become protective or harmful, and in what way gut bacteria impact this choice.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Understanding the way in which regulatory B cells are made and controlled could potentially lead to therapies targeting the action of regulatory B cells. Improving our knowledge on the effects of different gut bacteria on the immune system could open the possibility of removing or modifying these bacteria to reduce rheumatoid arthritis and lupus severity.