More than 100 people attended the latest BRC talk about the human immune system and how it can help and attack the body.
The University of Oxford’s Professor Paul Bowness spoke on “Autoimmunity – when our immune system turns on our bodies” at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Headington, on Thursday June 11.
The free event was part of a regular series of talks to showcase work funded by the BRC.
Prof Bowness, Professor of Experimental Rheumatology at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, described the different parts of the human immune system.
He explained how these are designed to protect us from infections and cancers and illustrated the different types of white blood cell including neutrophils and lymphocytes.
Prof Bowness then described how the immune system can at times mistakenly attack our own bodies and outlined examples of autoimmune disease, concentrating on rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
This is an inflammatory arthritis characterised by inflammation of the joint lining that can lead to the destruction of joints.
The immune system seems to be attacking self proteins including those modified by a process called citrullination.
Currently we use treatments including steroids and disease modifying drugs such as methotrexate to treat the condition, with increasing use of “biologic” therapies directed at the immune system.
These include anti-TNF treatment, pioneered by the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, now based at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.
Prof Bowness explained how researchers would like to develop more specific therapies to reset the immune dysfunction in rheumatoid arthritis. To watch a video of the talk click here.
He told the audience: “The BRC immunity and inflammation theme research includes immunomonitoring, the immunogenetics and development of the immune system, and the immunology of bowel, skin and joint diseases, with the long-term aim of developing more precise and individually tailored therapies for patients with immune-mediated diseases.”
Anna Schuh, Associate Professor for Molecular Diagnostics at the University of Oxford will give the next talk on Thursday, July 2 titled “The 100,000 Genome Project: Transforming diagnostics for patients with cancer and inherited genetic diseases”.