Understanding how dying cells can either reduce or worsen inflammation

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis

Lead applicant - Professor Michael Ehrenstein

Organisation - University College London

Type of grant - Project Grant

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £235,960.54

Start date - 1 January 2017

Reference - 21286

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Removal of dying cells by the body is an essential process for life. If this process does not work properly, it can lead to inflammation and has been linked with the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your body's own tissues).

However, it has been found that even if the dying cells are cleared properly, inflammation can still occur due to the structure of the DNA present in the dying cell. This research aims to develop this understanding and ultimately reveal how this information can be used to stop inflammation.

Why is this research important?

Developing an understanding of the processes involved in detecting different types of DNA from dying cells could lead to new therapies and increased knowledge as to how SLE and also rheumatoid arthritis develop. The researchers will use a mouse model of inflammatory arthritis to learn how the DNA from dying cells controls inflammation. The structure of the DNA will be changed in the dying cells to see if the inflammatory response of these cells and therefore the severity of arthritis, also changes. The team will carry out tests using blood samples from patients with rheumatoid arthritis and SLE to learn whether these findings are also relevant for patients.

How will the findings benefit patients?

This research will improve understanding of how arthritis and autoimmunity develops and therefore how it can be treated. The initial finding indicating that dying cells can be altered to either increase or decrease inflammation could offer a window into the development of new treatments.