Researchers at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) in Seattle, have developed tetramer technology to find the T cells that drive rheumatoid arthritis (RA). According to a news release from BRI, the tool allows scientists to study how RA starts, how current therapies may impact the immune response directed to the joint, and how to specifically target these cells therapeutically. The study was led by BRI associate director Jane Buckner, MD, and BRI Tetramer Core laboratory manager Eddie James, PhD.

Buckner states, “By using tetramer technology, we were able to examine whether T cells in people with rheumatoid arthritis were increased in number or were unique in other ways.” BRI develops tetramer technology that allows scientists to isolate cells that are difficult to pinpoint.

Buckner explains, “For the first time, we were able to demonstrate that T cells that recognize proteins in the joint were increased in the blood of people with RA, and that these cells had a unique set of markers. Further we were able to demonstrate that the number of these cells changes over time in patients and with treatment.”

The research was funded by an Autoimmune Disease Prevention grant from the National Institutes of Health. A new grant of $1.3 million from the United States Department of Defense will enable the research to expand the study and extend the to ask in-depth questions about whether these T cells reflect disease activity and if they change in patients who respond to therapy.

Buckner and James will lead the study with Bernard Ng, MD, chief of Rheumatology, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Healthcare System. Research will include biorepository studies of samples voluntarily provided by Veterans Affairs and BRI research participants who help to advance science, as indicated on the BRI news release.

[Source: Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason]