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You are here: Academia & Research Cambridge wins £224k to probe rare autoimmune disease

Cambridge wins £224k to probe rare autoimmune disease


A research team at the University of Cambridge has been awarded £224,148 from medical research charity Arthritis Research UK to carry out a three-year study to investigate the genetic causes of vasculitis, a rare autoimmune disease affecting the body’s blood vessels and connective tissue.

The study aims to further understand whether common differences carried in the genes might predispose some people of developing a type of disease called ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV), and could also lead to the development of more effective treatments.

Similar studies in other common autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease have identified immune pathways that indicate a higher risk of developing these conditions. This knowledge can help to target current therapies to the right disease, and also help in the development of new therapies.

Professor Ken Smith, from the Department of Medicine at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and lead researcher on the study, said: “This is particularly important as many pharmaceutical companies have new treatments in development but do not know which diseases would benefit from them.

“This particular study, which examines the major subset of vasculitis patients, will enable us to gain new insight into causes of this disease, which might assist with development of new and more effective treatments.”

Vasculitis is a uncommon disease which affects between 10,000 – 15,000 people in the UK. There are many various forms of vasculitis, and symptoms include kidney, lung and joint problems and skin rashes.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director at charity Arthritis Research UK, said: “Vasculitis varies from one person to the next and from one type of vasculitis to another. Those with vasculitis may also be living with auto-immune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

“This study will look to unearth new insights into causes of this condition which might assist with the development of new and more effective treatments, so it’s paramount to understand the genetic causes of vasculitis.”

Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions.

It is the UK’s fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis.