University of Birmingham-Led Study Reveals Autoimmune Disease Treatment May Benefit from the Re-Purposing of Existing Drugs

Jun 18, 2019 | Autoimmune Disease, Fibroblasts, Immune System, Inflammation

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A collaborative research effort led by the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation of Ageing and Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences along with the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of York, University of Rennes (France) and the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) has found that re-purposing already existing drugs or combining therapies could possibly be utilized to treat patients who have hard to treat autoimmune diseases.

This study was funded by Versus Arthritis, and was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports MedicalXpress

The investigators of this UK, French and Swiss collaborative found that fibroblasts—cells that play a key role in healing—also impact the formation of tertiary lymphoid structures, which are small clusters of blood and tissue cells exist at chronic inflammation sites.

A University of Birmingham researcher, Dr. Joana Campos, quoted “Tertiary lymphoid structures are believed to play a key role in the progression of an autoimmune condition such as Sjögren’s Syndrome—a condition that affects parts of the body that produce fluids like tears and spit.”

A participating investigator, Dr. Francesca Barone of the University of Birmingham noted “Our research had led us to conclude that, by re-purposing already existing drugs or combining therapies, we could use these medications to directly target immune cells and fibroblasts to attack these cytokines in patients who have difficult to treat autoimmune diseases in which the formation of tertiary lymphoid structures plays a critical role.”

The team demonstrated that fibroblasts expand and take on immunological elements in a process that depends on two cytokines (substances which are secreted by cells such as immune system fibroblasts.

The findings surprised the multi-national, English-led research team and have led them to questions the science community has sought to answer since tertiary lymphoid structured were first understood.

Lead Research/Investigator

Dr. Saba Nayar, University of Birmingham

Dr. Francesca Barone, University of Birmingham

Dr. Joana Campos, University of Birmingham

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