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U of M researchers identify new functions for autoimmune disease 'risk' gene
Date:7/19/2013

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (July 19, 2013) Researchers at the University of Minnesota have identified infection-fighting and inflammation-suppressing functions for a gene associated with human autoimmune disease.

The discovery, centered on a gene known as PTPN22, could set into motion new treatment approaches for autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. The key to these advances may lie with a better understanding of how a variant of PTPN22, known as a "risk variant," impacts autoimmune disease development and the behavior of myeloid cells that act as the body's "first responders."

The study appears in the journal Immunity.

In launching their latest research project, University of Minnesota Center for Immunology researchers set out to determine how PTPN22 could regulate immune system function in health and disease.

"Almost a decade ago, researchers at the University of Minnesota and other institutions discovered that people carrying a variant form of the PTPN22 gene bear an increased risk of becoming sick with certain autoimmune diseases. However, we have lacked a deep understanding how the variant creates that increased risk," said Erik J. Peterson, M.D., one of the study's lead authors and a University of Minnesota Medical School associate professor in the Division of Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases. "We wanted to understand the molecular basis for PTPN22 association with disease."

Much of the work carried out in the latest study took place in Peterson's laboratory, which utilizes genetic, biochemical, and primary human sample-based approaches to investigate how "risk" genes predispose to development of autoimmune disease.

According to the study's authors, previous research showed that PTPN22 works in immune cells, but few studies had specifically examined PTPN22's function in infection-fighting cells called myeloid cells.

"Myeloid cells are among the body
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Contact: Caroline Marin
crmarin@umn.edu
612-624-5680
University of Minnesota Academic Health Center
Source:Eurekalert

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