Creating a computer model of immune cell function in inflammatory disease

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis

Lead applicant - Dr Helen Wright

Organisation - University of Liverpool

Type of grant - Career Development Fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £431,863

Start date - 1 June 2017

Reference - 21430

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Neutrophils are white blood cells that are activated in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and vasculitis. It is known that these cells are responsible for releasing molecules that cause tissue damage in these conditions, however, how these cells are being activated in the body is unclear. This project aims to build a computer model to predict which molecules are activating the neutrophils, so that they can be targeted to prevent the damaging effects of these cells.

Why is this research important?

Current treatment strategies for inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis, have variable success depending on the patient. These differences highlight the need for the development of personalised medicine, and one important aspect of this is to develop accurate ways to identify if a patient will respond to treatment. A way to achieving this is by looking at the role of neutrophils in disease.

The types of molecules that activate neutrophils in laboratory conditions are known, but neutrophil activation in the body during inflammatory disease is complex and not completely understood. The researchers will use this existing experimental data to build a computer model that can predict the molecules activating neutrophils during rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis, and then test these predictions on new patients.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Findings from this research will help us to understand how neutrophils behave differently in disease, and why some patients respond to therapies and some don’t. It will also identify new targets for drug development in inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis.