National Jewish Health Researchers Discovered Possible Trigger for Autoimmune Disease

National Jewish Health researchers published a breakthrough discovery in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (the April 2017 issue) where a possible trigger for autoimmune diseases such as lupus, Crohn`s disease and multiple sclerosis has been discovered. Researchers briefly elaborated why women are more prone to autoimmune diseases than men and presented their newly found therapy to treat autoimmune diseases in people.

“Our findings confirm that Age-associated B Cells (ABCs) drive autoimmune disease,” said Kira Rubtsova, PhD, an instructor in biomedical science at National Jewish Health. “We demonstrated that the transcription factor T-bet inside B cells causes ABCs to develop. When we deleted T-bet inside B cells, mice prone to develop autoimmune disease remained healthy. We believe the same process occurs in humans with autoimmune disease, more often in elderly women.”

Autoimmune diseases are not curable and yet millions of people in the United States suffer from them. This disease attacks and destroys the organs and tissue in the body. The most common autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis strike mostly women, about 80%, and are likely to occur in women two to ten times more often than in men.

Philippa Marrack, PhD, Chair of Biomedical Science leading the research team at the National Jewish Health Center came up with a therapy that could save millions of lives. Using mice models for their study they isolated a subset of B cells that accumulate in the body of the autoimmune patients and named them as age-related-B-cells (ABC). Their next research showed that a transcription factor (T-Bet) found inside the B cells played a crucial role in the appearance of ABC. Transcription factors bind to DNA inside cells and drive the expression of one or several genes.

Moreover, with breeding and genetic techniques, it was made possible to eliminate the ability of autoimmune-prone mice to express the B cell transcription factor, leading the mice to appear healthy. It was noted that kidney damage appeared in 80 percent of mice, and after the modification, this number dropped to only 20 percent.

However, 75 percent of T-Bet in B cells mice died after 12 months, while 90 percent of T-bet deficient mice survived the process.

“Our findings for the first time show that ABCs are not only associated with autoimmune disease, but actually drive it,” explained Dr. Rubtsova.

The National Jewish Health researchers` discovery attracted increasing interests since the study was published.

Hopefully in the near future, Dr. Rubtsova and her team are aiming to develop a therapy for sarcoidosis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and chronic beryllium disease.

More information: Kira Rubtsova et al, B cells expressing the transcription factor T-bet drive lupus-like autoimmunity, Journal of Clinical Investigation (2017). DOI: 10.1172/JCI91250
Journal reference: Journal of Clinical Investigation
Provided by: National Jewish Health

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