Molecular signatures provide new targets for treatments

Posted: 22nd January 2021

Scientists have discovered that the common autoimmune diseases type 1 diabetes, lupus multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis share common molecular signatures that could prove a useful target for new treatments.

In patients with type 1 diabetes systemic lupus erythematosus multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis, a research team has discovered that invading immune cells engage in a “dialogue” with targeted tissues, leaving what the scientists describe as “molecular footprints”. These footprints could provide exciting new opportunities for research and therapies.

In patients with autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys parts of the body. While autoimmune diseases have different bodily targets, they share similarities, including a 50% common genetic risk, chronic local inflammation and mechanisms that cause tissue damage. 

Up to 5% of the world’s population suffer from an autoimmune disease, but there is currently no treatment. Instead, treatment involves managing symptoms.

Scientists studying autoimmune diseases have typically focused on the immune system, but this study takes another approach. “There is increasing evidence that the target tissues of these diseases are not innocent bystanders of the autoimmune attack,” say researchers. Instead, they participate in a “deleterious dialog with the immune system that contributes to their own demise”.

The team of scientists discovered common gene expressions at the target tissues by studying RNA sequencing datasets from patients with type 1 diabetes systemic lupus erythematosus multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

They identified TYK2, a protein that regulates interferon signalling. TKY2 inhibitors are already used to treat other autoimmune diseases, and preclinical models have already demonstrated that they could positively impact protecting beta cells in patients with diabetes.

Scientists believe the research will provide exciting new avenues for further study. “Future research on autoimmune diseases should focus on both the immune system and the target tissues, and on their dialog,” researchers state.

Autoimmune diseases have a complex genetic basis, but scientists have identified common polymorphisms that can be used to assess whether a person is at risk of developing them. 

Biocentaur’s PrediSpot analyses DNA extracted from a blood sample to identify genetic variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with an increased risk of developing life-threatening health conditions, including type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Learn more about our range of genetic tests that unlock your health here.

You can read the paper, Gene expression signatures of target tissues in type 1 diabetes, lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, here.