NIH Dishes Out Over $10 Million Towards Autoimmune Disease Therapies

According to a story from Scleroderma News, a team of researchers associated with Michigan Medicine has been awarded a grant to the tune of $10.2 million from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence. The goal of the funding is the potential exploration and development of new treatments for a range of autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.

Some of the research focus will include three projects which will investigate new potential therapies for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and other autoimmune diseases.

Elotuzumab and Scleroderma

The first of these projects will investigate the drug elotuzumab. This drug is currently used to treat patients with relapsed multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer), but the new study will investigate the potential of this drug as a treatment for scleroderma. Elotuzumab is designed to target immune cells that carry a certain surface protein known as SLAM7. While its role in scleroderma is unclear, there is a possibility that it plays a role in triggering the immune response in the disease. The researchers hope that the drug will be capable of modulating immune activity in scleroderma.

Applying Rheumatoid Arthritis Research to Other Diseases

Another study will take a broader approach in order to find a potential treatment for a wider range of conditions in which an autoimmune mechanism may be at work. These researchers will look at the latest treatments and research focused on rheumatoid arthritis and see if they are at all applicable to other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune eye diseases. These exploratory projects will hopefully uncover some additional treatment approaches for these illnesses.

The funding from the NIH is essential for getting these important rare disease focused projects off the ground. The scientists from Michigan Medicine are hoping that they can have meaningful results from these studies within the following three to five years. 

Autoimmune diseases are among some of the most challenging to treat because it often involves suppressing the activity of the patient’s own immune system, which can leave them more vulnerable to infection. Developing more effective treatments that reduce the risk for the patient is essential for improving outcomes.

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