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Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to investigate autoantibody production in autoimmune disorders

Oct. 8, 2012

The Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute received a one-year award for more than $375,000 from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The award will fund an investigation of the factors involved in regulating the production of autoantibodies, which are antibodies that target an individual’s own tissues. These autoantibodies are linked to autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Stephen Gauld, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics in allergy and immunology, and microbiology and molecular genetics, and a researcher at the Research Institute, is the principal investigator for the grant.

The National Institutes of Health estimated in 2005 that between 15 and 24 million Americans suffer from one of the more than 80 diseases in the autoimmune disorder family. Many of these chronic diseases have no cure and disproportionally impact women. Patients are often debilitated by their symptoms and the high costs of a lifetime of treatment.

This project seeks to understand the factors that influence the production of autoantibodies that attack a patient’s own tissues in cases of autoimmune disease. Prior research in Dr. Gauld’s lab has shown that a cell in the immune system, the regulatory T cell, suppresses the production of autoantibodies by other immune cells called B cells. Dr. Gauld will study this reaction to understand how it works and how it can be manipulated to reduce tissue damage and promote patient health.

The results of this study will advance understanding of autoantibody production and help researchers discover novel treatments to slow down or prevent the generation of antibodies that attack the body’s tissues.

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