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Researchers identify novel pathophysiologic mechanism responsible for autoimmunity
Date:4/25/2011

(Boston) Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have discovered that human proteins with an affinity for Dermatan Sulfate (DS) have the propensity to become autoantigens. In a companion article, the researchers also found that DS physically interacts with dead cells and that the resulting DSautoantigen complexes drive autoreactive B-1a cell responses and autoantibody production both in-vitro and in mouse models. These findings, which appear in two back-to-back papers in the May issue of the American Journal of Pathology, provide a promising tool for discovery of autoantigens, molecular diagnosis of autoimmune diseases and development of cause-specific therapies.

Autoimmune diseases are the third most common category of disease in the United States after cancer and heart disease; they affect approximately 14-22 million persons. Autoimmune diseases are among the most poorly understood medical conditions, although it is well accepted that they are caused by aberrant immune responses directed at endogenous molecules and tissues of the body. Autoimmune diseases encompass a wide spectrum of clinical presentations, and more than 80 types have been classified, based primarily on systemic or organ-specific involvement. Common systemic autoimmune diseases include systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjgren's syndrome; localized diseases include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Graves' disease.

According to the researchers, both precise diagnosis and development of cause-directed therapies remain challenging. A major hurdle has been the lack of understanding of etiologically inciting molecular and cellular events and key pathophysiologic mechanisms that lead to autoimmunity.

Studying patients with autoimmune diseases, the researchers discovered patient-specific complex autoantigen patterns that were more diverse than previously thought, indicating significant pathological heterogeneity even
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Contact: Gina DiGravio
gina.digravio@bmc.org
617-638-8480
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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