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LATEST UPDATES » Vol 22, No 02, February 2018 – Searching for the fountain of youth       » Chinese researchers cloned monkeys       » National Science and Technology Prizes       » Highlights from the State Natural Science Award       » Highlights from the State Technological Invention Award      
BIOBOARD - ASIA
Genomics reveals key macrophages’ involvement in systemic sclerosis
Researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School, Imperial College London and University College London have made an important discovery that a type of immune cell called macrophages play the key role in systemic sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune disease which currently has no cure.

A new international study has made an important discovery about the key role of macrophages, a type of immune cell, in systemic sclerosis (SSc), a chronic autoimmune disease which currently has no cure.

The research led by Enrico Petretto, Associate Professor at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS), along with Dr Jacques Behmoaras at Imperial College London and collaborators from University College London in the UK, established for the first time a decisive link between immune cells, specifically the macrophages derived from SSc patients and systemic sclerosis. The study also demonstrated the role played by macrophages in the development of the disease due to known genetic factors, such as the case of the sussceptibility gene GSDMA, which has been involved in cell death in the skin and was associated to the disease in 4,436 SSc patients, but whose function in macrophages from SSc patients was unclear.

Previous genetic studies have found various genes associated with SSc susceptibility, but so far, it is not known for certain which type of cells are crucial for the development of the disease. The team used advanced transcriptomic and genetic analyses, which included RNA-sequencing and systems-genetics in macrophages of 57 SSc patients, and established decisively the role for hundreds of macrophage genes in the development of SSc. Their discovery will point the way for researchers looking to develop new therapies for SSc.

Published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases (ARD) — the highest ranked journal in Rheumatology — in addition to confirming many genes previously implicated in the genetic predisposition to the disease, the study further discovered hundreds of genes that are previously not known to be associated with SSc. This provides a new starting point to better understand the disease aetiology, its genetic causes and develop therapies for SSc.

“Investigating how genetic variation is responsible for systemic sclerosis is a colossal task. By looking at immune cells such as macrophages, we can generate specific hypotheses that will allow us to understand how these cells cause damage,” added Dr Jacques Behmoaras, co- lead principal investigator from Centre for Complement and Inflammation Research, Imperial College London.

The study was supported by the Medical Research Council, UK, the National Research Foundation Singapore under its Cooperative Basic Research Grant administered by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council and Duke-NUS Medical School, as well as by the Arthritis Research UK, Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK and the Royal Free Charity, UK.

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APBN Editorial Calendar 2018
January:
Obesity / Outlook for 2018
February:
Searching for the fountain of youth
March:
Nutrition / Women in Science
April:
Digestive health / Intellectual property
May:
Asthma / Dental health
June:
Oncology / Biotech landscape in APAC
July:
Water management / Vaccination
August:
Regenerative medicine / Biotech start ups
September:
Digital healthcare / 3D printing
October:
Bones / Breast cancer
November:
Liver health / Top science research nations & institutions
December:
AIDS / Breakthrough of the year/Emerging trends
Editorial calendar is subjected to changes.
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