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Concept: Autoimmune disease


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a heterogeneous, prevalent, chronic autoimmune disease characterized by painful swollen joints and significant disabilities. Symptomatic relief can be achieved in up to 50% of patients using biological agents that inhibit tumor necrosis factor (TNF) or other mechanisms of action, but there are no universally effective therapies. Recent advances in basic and preclinical science reveal that reflex neural circuits inhibit the production of cytokines and inflammation in animal models. One well-characterized cytokine-inhibiting mechanism, termed the “inflammatory reflex,” is dependent upon vagus nerve signals that inhibit cytokine production and attenuate experimental arthritis severity in mice and rats. It previously was unknown whether directly stimulating the inflammatory reflex in humans inhibits TNF production. Here we show that an implantable vagus nerve-stimulating device in epilepsy patients inhibits peripheral blood production of TNF, IL-1β, and IL-6. Vagus nerve stimulation (up to four times daily) in RA patients significantly inhibited TNF production for up to 84 d. Moreover, RA disease severity, as measured by standardized clinical composite scores, improved significantly. Together, these results establish that vagus nerve stimulation targeting the inflammatory reflex modulates TNF production and reduces inflammation in humans. These findings suggest that it is possible to use mechanism-based neuromodulating devices in the experimental therapy of RA and possibly other autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases.

Concepts: Inflammation, Cytokine, Interleukin 1, Rheumatoid arthritis, Vagus nerve, Autoimmune disease, Vagus nerve stimulation, Tumor necrosis factor-alpha


 To determine whether feeding infants with hydrolysed formula reduces their risk of allergic or autoimmune disease.

Concepts: Systematic review, Autoimmune disease, Meta-analysis


Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) is unique among the rheumatic diseases because it presents the challenge of managing a chronic multisystem autoimmune disease with a widespread obliterative vasculopathy of small arteries that is associated with varying degrees of tissue fibrosis. The hallmark of scleroderma is clinical heterogeneity with subsets that vary in the degree of disease expression, organ involvement, and ultimate prognosis. Thus, the term scleroderma is used to describe patients who have common manifestations that link them together, whereas a highly variable clinical course exists that spans from mild and subtle findings to aggressive, life-threatening multisystem disease. The physician needs to carefully characterize each patient to understand the specific manifestations and level of disease activity to decide appropriate treatment. This is particularly important in treating a patient with scleroderma because there is no treatment that has been proven to modify the overall disease course, although therapy that targets specific organ involvement early before irreversible damage occurs improves both quality of life and survival. This review describes our approach as defined by evidence, expert opinion, and our experience treating patients. Scleroderma is a multisystem disease with variable expression; thus, any treatment plan must be holistic, yet at the same time focus on the dominant organ disease. The goal of therapy is to improve quality of life by minimizing specific organ involvement and subsequent life-threatening disease. At the same time the many factors that alter daily function need to be addressed, including nutrition, pain, deconditioning, musculoskeletal disuse, comorbid conditions, and the emotional aspects of the disease, such as fear, depression, and the social withdrawal caused by disfigurement.

Concepts: Medicine, Diseases and disorders, Rheumatology, Autoimmune disease, Lupus erythematosus, Systemic disease, Scleroderma, Systemic scleroderma


We genotyped 2,861 cases of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) from the UK PBC Consortium and 8,514 UK population controls across 196,524 variants within 186 known autoimmune risk loci. We identified 3 loci newly associated with PBC (at P < 5 × 10(-8)), increasing the number of known susceptibility loci to 25. The most associated variant at 19p12 is a low-frequency nonsynonymous SNP in TYK2, further implicating JAK-STAT and cytokine signaling in disease pathogenesis. An additional five loci contained nonsynonymous variants in high linkage disequilibrium (LD; r(2) > 0.8) with the most associated variant at the locus. We found multiple independent common, low-frequency and rare variant association signals at five loci. Of the 26 independent non-human leukocyte antigen (HLA) signals tagged on the Immunochip, 15 have SNPs in B-lymphoblastoid open chromatin regions in high LD (r(2) > 0.8) with the most associated variant. This study shows how data from dense fine-mapping arrays coupled with functional genomic data can be used to identify candidate causal variants for functional follow-up.

Concepts: Immune system, Cirrhosis, United Kingdom, Hepatology, Bilirubin, Autoimmune disease, Primary biliary cirrhosis, Primary sclerosing cholangitis


In autoimmune disease, a network of diverse cytokines is produced in association with disease susceptibility to constitute the ‘cytokine milieu’ that drives chronic inflammation. It remains elusive how cytokines interact in such a complex network to sustain inflammation in autoimmune disease. This has presented huge challenges for successful drug discovery because it has been difficult to predict how individual cytokine-targeted therapy would work. Here, we combine the principles of Chinese Taoism philosophy and modern bioinformatics tools to dissect multiple layers of arbitrary cytokine interactions into discernible interfaces and connectivity maps to predict movements in the cytokine network. The key principles presented here have important implications in our understanding of cytokine interactions and development of effective cytokine-targeted therapies for autoimmune disorders.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicine, Bioinformatics, Interleukin 1, Interleukin, Autoimmune disease, Graves' disease, Taoism


CD40-CD40 ligand (CD40L) interactions appear to play pathogenic roles in autoimmune disease. Here we quantify CD40 expression on fibrocytes, circulating, and bone marrow-derived progenitor cells. The functional consequences of CD40 ligation are determined since these may promote tissue remodeling linked with thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO).

Concepts: Bacteria, Progenitor cell, Autoimmune disease, Graves' disease, Autoimmune diseases, Clusters of differentiation


SEC is an undifferentiated tumour used in tumour studies. MTX is an antimetabolite used in treatment of cancer, autoimmune diseases and induction of abortion. VPA is used as anticonvulsant and is under investigation for treatment of cancer. The aim of this work was to compare between the effect of each of MTX and VPA on solid Ehrlich tumour in mice.

Concepts: Cancer, Rheumatoid arthritis, Autoimmune disease, Epilepsy, Anticonvulsant, Cultural studies, Paul Ehrlich


Graves' disease (GD), including Graves' ophthalmopathy or orbitopathy (GO), is an autoimmune disease with an environmental and genetic component to its etiology. The genetic contribution to the GO clinical phenotype remains unclear. Previous data from our laboratory and others have suggested that GO has no specific genetic component distinct from GD itself, while other reports have occasionally appeared suggesting that polymorphisms in genes such as CTLA4 and IL23R specifically increase the risk for GO. One of the criticisms of all these reports has been the clinical definition of the GO phenotype as distinct from hyperthyroid GD devoid of clinically significant eye involvement. The objective of this study was to take advantage of a phenotypically pure group of GD patients with GO and examine a series of genes associated with GD to determine if any were more definitively associated with GO rather than Graves' thyroid disease itself.

Concepts: Gene, Thyroid disease, Hyperthyroidism, Thyroid, Autoimmune disease, Graves' disease, Thyroidectomy, Graves' ophthalmopathy


Ideally, therapy for autoimmune diseases should eliminate pathogenic autoimmune cells while sparing protective immunity, but feasible strategies for such an approach have been elusive. Here, we show that in the antibody-mediated autoimmune disease pemphigus vulgaris (PV), autoantigen-based chimeric immunoreceptors can direct T cells to kill autoreactive B lymphocytes through the specificity of the B cell receptor (BCR). We engineered human T cells to express a chimeric autoantibody receptor (CAAR), consisting of the PV autoantigen, desmoglein (Dsg) 3, fused to CD137-CD3ζ signaling domains. Dsg3 CAAR-T cells exhibit specific cytotoxicity against cells expressing anti-Dsg3 BCRs in vitro and expand, persist, and specifically eliminate Dsg3-specific B cells in vivo. CAAR-T cells may provide an effective and universal strategy for specific targeting of autoreactive B cells in antibody-mediated autoimmune disease.

Concepts: Immune system, Lymphocyte, Protein, B cell, Adaptive immune system, Major histocompatibility complex, Autoimmune disease, Pemphigus vulgaris


Seasonal changes in disease activity have been observed in multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the CNS. These epidemiological observations suggest that environmental factors influence the disease course. Here, we report that melatonin levels, whose production is modulated by seasonal variations in night length, negatively correlate with multiple sclerosis activity in humans. Treatment with melatonin ameliorates disease in an experimental model of multiple sclerosis and directly interferes with the differentiation of human and mouse T cells. Melatonin induces the expression of the repressor transcription factor Nfil3, blocking the differentiation of pathogenic Th17 cells and boosts the generation of protective Tr1 cells via Erk1/2 and the transactivation of the IL-10 promoter by ROR-α. These results suggest that melatonin is another example of how environmental-driven cues can impact T cell differentiation and have implications for autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Transcription, Transcription factor, RNA polymerase, Autoimmune disease, Autoimmune diseases