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Future of Research

“Gut Reaction” Shows the Need for Treatment and Cures of Autoimmune Disease

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Virginia T. Ladd

President and CEO, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA)

The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) supports the “Future of Research” campaign to gain research dollars and opportunities for researchers on all levels.  AARDA will continue to be a voice in Washington DC and throughout the country for research support.  

Autoimmune disease is on the march, and we must win the battle for the 50 million Americans — and many others worldwide — who are depending on us.

Gut feeling

The term “gut” has taken on new significance as researchers in the United States and other countries have discovered a detailed link between an abnormal mix of bacterial imbalances in the gut, the microbiome, and various diseases.

Betty Diamond, M.D., professor and head of the Center for Autoimmune & Musculoskeletal Diseases, The Feinstein Center for Medical Research, Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, has said, “The excitement generated by studies suggesting that a particular bacterium or group of bacteria can predispose to an autoimmune disease rests on the idea that altering the gut microbiome will diminish disease activity. Studies in laboratory models support this idea.”

Research shows

Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine said their experiments are the first detailed evidence of a link between bacterial imbalances in the gut and potentially life-threatening forms of systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). 

In a Langone Health report from February, the study’s senior investigator Gregg Silverman, M.D., says the NYU results point to leakages of bacteria from the gut as a possible immune system trigger of lupus. If the study team’s results are validated, then some current treatments may actually be causing harm if they impair overall immune defenses against infection.

Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, have revealed findings from a recent study showing that some patients with autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis, display higher-than-normal levels of a “mimic protein” that is a member of the human gut microbiome.  

Further studies will be aimed at discovering the relationship between the stage of disease and antibody levels to the bacterial mimic in individual patients. They may assist in the development of a rapid test to provide insight into a person’s predisposition to an autoimmune disease.

Given the fact autoimmune disease affects an estimated 50 million people in the United States, the third most common behind heart disease and cancer, it would seem that we must ensure that the National Institutes of Health and other organizations funding biomedical research have the necessary support to follow this relatively new thinking — and yet opportunities for research suffer for lack of resources.  

The research itself is not only very expensive, but also the researchers must spend precious time writing grant requests. Successful funding depends on the generosity of foundation and organization contributors.

For more information, visit the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association website at www.aarda.org.  

Virginia T. Ladd, President and CEO, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), [email protected]

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