Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - ARDIS (Autoimmunity and rheumatic disease research groups)

Research groups in autoimmunity at the Universities of Bergen, Lund / Karolinska Institute, Erlangen / Frankfurt and Oxford have provided early stage training for nine PhD students in immunology, genetics and molecular medicine of Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Sjögren's syndrome (SS) and Multiple sclerosis (MS). This training was based on a broad integrated approach with the aim of initiating a better understanding of the immunopathogenesis and genetic background of autoimmune diseases in general. The long-term objectives was to reach a more fundamental basis for better diagnosis and treatment in these chronic, disabling and enigmatic diseases affecting a large part of the European population. The area of research training was autoimmune reactions, disease mechanisms and genetics with basis in both human and murine model systems. The exploration of genetic markers of these autoimmune diseases was seen as an integral part of making progress in understanding; it provided vital clues to focus immunological studies in the future leading to intervention in RA, SS and MS and pointing the way forward for other similar diseases.

In short, the PhD trainees were confronted with the following aspects during training:
-characterisation of the target structures of autoimmune responses for an improvement of diagnostic tools and eventually the development of antigen-specific immunomodulatory strategies;
- positional cloning of genes responsible for animal model diseases corresponding to human RA, MS and SS;
- in depth studies on the pathogenic pathways leading to RA, MS and SS, primarily using congenic and specifically mutated strains;
- establishment and studies of humanised mice. These mice are humanized with the human homologous genes identified in the animal models like MHC class II and type II collagen;
- establishment of a higher plateau in the knowledge base and enhanced treatment strategies that can be applied, in whole or in part, to other autoimmune diseases.

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