New functions for autoimmune disease `risk` gene discovered

Washington: Researchers have identified infection-fighting and inflammation-suppressing functions for a gene which is associated with human autoimmune disease.

The discovery by the University of Minnesota researchers, 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 behaviour of myeloid cells that act as the body`s "first responders."

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," 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, said.

"We wanted to understand the molecular basis for PTPN22 association with disease," he said

The study is published in the journal Immunity.


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