The following is a description of a study from one of the many researchers that our organization has funded.

Potassium Channels in Lymphocytes: Therapeutic Targets for Immunomodulation in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Christine Beeton, Ph.D.
University of California
Irvine, California
Under normal conditions, white blood cells such as T lymphocytes, protect the body against disease-causing mechanisms. In autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the body attacks self-tissues. Recent studies show that self-reactive T cells that contribute to tissue damage in RA belong to a subpopulation called “effector memory T lymphocytes.” These cells seek out and destroy tissues containing the autoantigen that triggered them.

High specificity is of real importance in biological therapy – picture this analogy: the use of precision guided bombs vs. carpet bombing. The therapy used should minimize collateral damage to the surrounding tissues and systems. Dr. Beeton’s goal is to determine if a specific protein, the Kv1.3 channel is essential for the activation of effector memory T cells. Her lab has discovered a blocker for this protein that shuts down the troublesome T cells while sparing other subsets of T cells. Dr. Beeton will test this therapy utilizing cells from the joints of RA patients, with the control group being osteoarthritis patients. In addition, they will test the efficacy of the treatment itself in reducing the severity and duration of arthritis in a rat model of RA. These proof-of-concept studies will set the stage for future evaluation of Kv1.3 blockers as a therapy for RA.

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