Understanding how immune cells become unregulated in systemic sclerosis

Disease - Systemic sclerosis

Lead applicant - Dr Voon H Ong

Organisation - University College London

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship 2019

Status of grant - Active from 1 November 2020

Amount of the original award - £157,341.56

Start date - 1 October 2020

Reference -22534

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research? 

This research aims to understand why some people with systemic sclerosis are unable to regulate certain immune cells responsible for inflammation. The researchers will explore the role of genetic and environmental factors in this condition and look to identify biological targets for new treatment options that target the problematic cells to reduce inflammation.

Why is this research important? 

Systemic sclerosis is a severe autoimmune disease that can cause people’s skin and the connective tissue inside the body to harden. This can stop muscles, blood vessels, joints and internal organs such as the lungs, working as well as they should. This hardening is caused by B lymphocytes (a type of immune cell) attacking the patient’s own cell. B lymphocytes can become unregulated and produce certain antibodies that further increase inflammation and activity of other cells. Normally when these immune cells do not function properly they are removed from the body, however certain people with systemic sclerosis are unable to regulate these cells properly, causing prolonged inflammation.

How will the findings benefit patients?

It is hoped that a greater understanding of how immune cells can become unregulated in systemic sclerosis will lead to identification of targets for new treatments. These new treatments may be developed to target the specific subset of immune cells that are responsible for disease activity and tissue damage.