The results of a study conducted by the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, London Imperial College under the guidance of Irina Udarava, may be useful in creating new drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The cause of this chronic inflammatory disease is a failure in the immune system, which begins to attack its own cells. In patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (and this is approximately 1% of the population of the planet), the arms and legs are deformed, it is difficult for them to walk, to do work with their hands; the disease often affects the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels.
In the struggle for the quality of life of such patients, today leading drugs that suppress the activity of extracellular protein, which contributes to the development of inflammation: in rheumatoid arthritis, it accumulates in the joints. Such drugs are produced by many pharmaceutical companies. However, about a third of patients are not sensitive to them, so experts are constantly looking for other ways of treatment.
The focus of the study, led by Udalova, turned out to be IRF 5 protein, called the molecular factor of interferon. This protein functions as a molecular switch that “supervises” specialized blood cells – macrophages. Macrophages are involved in the development of the immune response and the inflammatory response. If you block the production of IRF5 in macrophages at the genetic level, the inflammatory process stops. This can be a very effective means of combating many autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, lupus, multiple sclerosis. And activation of the genes responsible for the production of IRF5 will be an effective tool for stimulating the immune system.
“Our results show that IRF5 is the main switch in key cells of the immune system and determines which genes will be included in these cells. This is very interesting, because if we can design molecules that affect the functions of IRF5, it will give us a new way of anti-inflammatory therapy in a wide variety of conditions.”