How can we manipulate immune cells to treat arthritis?

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis

Lead applicant - Professor James Brewer

Organisation - University of Glasgow

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £142,443.34

Start date - 1 October 2017

Reference - 21570

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Drugs which work with the immune system (immunotherapies) are used to treat many autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. This research aims to answer some important questions highlighted in recent clinical trials on the use of a type of immune cell, the dendritic cells, as an immunotherapy to treat autoimmune diseases.

Why is this research important?

Currently, treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, rely on drugs which broadly suppress the immune system. It is essential to develop treatments which are specific, to avoid the negative side effects associated with this. Recently, there has been a drive to develop treatments which ‘switch off’ the disease causing immune response in autoimmune diseases, leaving the helpful immune responses untouched.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the activity of a type of immune cell which controls joint damage, the T-cell, is elevated, while the activity of those that prevent these harmful immune responses (regulatory T-cells) is suppressed. Treatment with dendritic cells has the potential to specifically target T-cells. Data from early clinical trials have provided encouraging results, but they have revealed some important unanswered questions. This research hopes to answer these questions by further understanding dendritic cell function, which will provide essential information for future clinical trials.

How will the finding benefit patients?

The findings of this research will hopefully allow relevant changes to be made to future clinical trials, allowing for the further development of dendritic cell therapy. Developing treatments which specifically target the disease-causing immune response only has the potential to decrease side effects experienced by currently available therapies.