Allergies, AstraZeneca, Author Interviews / 01.12.2018 Interview with: Mr. Tosh Butt Vice President, Respiratory AstraZeneca Mr. Butt discusses the recent announcement that the FDA has granted Orphan Drug Designation for Fasenra for the treatment of Eosinophilic Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis. What is the background for this announcement? Can you tell us a little more about Eosinophilic Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis/Churg Strauss? How does it differ/resemble severe eosinophilic asthma?
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Orphan Drug Designation (ODD) for FASENRA™ (benralizumab) for the treatment of Eosinophilic Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (EGPA). The ODD application was based on epidemiology demonstrating the rarity of the disease (<200k US patients) and a scientific rationale that FASENRA may benefit patients with this condition. The core role of eosinophilia in EGPA and FASENRA’s demonstrated eosinophil-depleting properties provided this rationale and suggest it may deliver benefit to patients with EGPA.
  • EGPA is a rare autoimmune disease that can cause damage to multiple organs and tissues. EGPA is characterized by inflammation of blood vessels and the presence of elevated levels of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell. All patients with EGPA have very high levels of eosinophils at some point in their disease. FASENRA induces rapid and near-complete depletion of eosinophils in the blood and has proven efficacy in severe eosinophilic asthma, which suggest it may deliver benefit to patients with EGPA. 
Author Interviews, Rheumatology / 03.10.2018 Interview with: Virginia Ladd, CEO   American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (AARDA) Would you briefly explain what is meant by autoimmune disorders? Response: Autoimmune disease is a broad category of related diseases which share both genetic and mechanistic properties.  They occur when the person’s immune system attacks the body’s own cell, and tissue. The immune system goes awry and mistakenly attacks the tissues and organs it was designed to protect. Normally the immune system protects the It does this by body by responding to invading microorganisms, such as bacteria, and viruses. Producing antibodies which are special proteins that recognize and destroy the invaders. Autoimmune diseases occur when autoantibodies attack the body’s own cells, tissue and organs. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, JAMA, Rheumatology / 13.09.2018 Interview with: Andrea L. Roberts, MPH, PhD Research Associate, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health What is the background for this study? Response: There is some evidence that depression may increase risk of autoimmune diseases. For example, among people with autoimmune diseases, more people have depression than in the general population. Also, people who have autoimmune diseases who also have depression have more severe disease symptoms. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Karolinski Institute, Mental Health Research, PTSD, Rheumatology / 21.06.2018 Interview with: Huan Song Associated Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Karolinska Institutet What is the background for this study? Response: Earlier findings from our group (e.g. Fang et al., NEJM 2012; Arnberg et al., Lancet Psychiatry 2015; Lu et al., JAMA Oncol 2016; Shen et al., BMJ 2016; Zhu et al., Ann Oncol 2017) have identified pathways through which stressful events contribute to deterioration in human health. With strong animal models and human data supporting a role of stress in immune dysregulation, the hypothesis linking mental distress with autoimmune is indeed plausible. However, the evidence is as yet limited to clinical observations and a few larger observational studies on US veterans, most of them on men only, and some of which have cross-sectional designs and various other methodological shortcomings. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Neurological Disorders, University Texas, Zika / 07.03.2018 Interview with: Slobodan Paessler, D.V.M., Ph.D. Professor, Department of Pathology; Director, Galveston National Laboratory Preclinical Studies Core; Director, Animal Biosafety Level 3, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity; Member, Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, TX What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Zika virus infection is associated with various developmental issues for human embryos such as reduced head growth, reduced brain tissue growth, and damage to brain or eyes. We wanted to better understand if some of these birth defects are caused directly by the Zika virus or maybe by the host response to infection. In our study we demonstrate that the Zika virus infection induces autoimmune response against the C1q protein. This protein is a very important immune protein as well as one of the essential proteins for healthy brain development. Attacking the C1q protein upon exposure with the Zika virus could contribute to the development of autoimmune disorders and birth defects.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Mayo Clinic, Neurology / 13.02.2018 Interview with: Eoin Flanagan, M.B., B.Ch. Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota What is the background for this study?   Response: Traditionally it has been thought that infections (e.g., viruses)  account for the majority of encephalitis cases. Recent discoveries of neural autoantibody markers of encephalitis (e.g., NMDA receptor autoantibodies) have led to an appreciation that encephalitis cases can be caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the brain, what we term autoimmune encephalitis. (more…)
Abuse and Neglect, Cancer Research, Fertility, Immunotherapy / 27.03.2017 Interview with: Kenneth S. K. Tung, M.D. Professor of Pathology and Microbiology Director of UVA Research Histology Core Beirne B. Carter Center for Immunology Research University of Virginia What is the background for this study? Response: The immune system needs to see tissue antigens to avoid responding to them in order to prevent autoimmune disease development. The current dogma, stated in all Immunology and Reproductive Biology textbooks, considers the sperm antigens in the testis to be exempted from this process. They are considered totally hidden behind a tissue barrier, and are invisible to the immune system. Because sperm antigens are treated as foreign molecules, they should stimulate strong immune response when employed in cancer vaccines against antigens common to sperm and cancers. It is also believed that sperm molecules are protected by local factors that inhibit inflammation, whereas systemic mechanisms such as regulatory T cells would not exist. The paradigm has restrained ongoing research on systemic tolerance to sperm, and the need to understanding systemic regulation in infertility research (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Pediatrics / 14.10.2016 Interview with: Tuure Kinnunen, MD, PhD Academy Research Fellow School of Medicine, University of Eastern Finland Kuopio, Finland What is the background for this study? Response: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. It typically manifests in childhood and early adolescence. Diabetes-associated autoantibodies are highly predictive of type 1 diabetes risk and they can be typically detected in the blood of patients even years before the onset of the disease. Follicular helper T cells are a recently described type of immune cells that have a central role in activating B cells, which in turn are responsible for producing antibodies. Since the emergence of autoantibodies is a common feature of type 1 diabetes development, it is plausible that follicular T helper cells have a role in the disease process. This notion is also supported by evidence recently generated in the murine models of type 1 diabetes. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Gastrointestinal Disease, Genetic Research / 01.02.2016 Interview with: Alexander Egeberg, MD PhD National Allergy Research Centre, Departments of Dermato-Allergology and Cardiology Herlev and Gentofte University Hospital University of Copenhagen Hellerup, Denmark Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Egeberg: A recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified 90 shared genetic regions associated with celiac disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively. Similarly, a newly published GWAS identified shared risk loci between rosacea, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease. In the present study of 6,759 patients with rosacea and 33,795 control subjects, rosacea was associated with a 2 to 3-fold higher risk of these four conditions, particularly among women. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gastrointestinal Disease / 05.07.2015 Interview with: Louise Emilsson, MD PhD, Postdoc Primary Care Research unit Vårdcentralen Värmlands Nysäter and Institute of Health and Society University of Oslo MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Emilsson: Genetics is considered an important factor in the development of celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases. For e.g. the prevalence of celiac disease is about 10% in first-degree relatives of celiac patients compared to about 1% in the general population. Several earlier genome-wide association study (GWAS) studies have established shared genetic features also in-between different autoimmune diseases, however, very little is known about the risk of developing other autoimmune diseases in relatives of celiac patients. Therefore we assessed the risk of several other non-celiac autoimmune diseases (Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus or ulcerative colitis) in all first degree relatives and spouses of Swedish celiac patients. MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Dr. Emilsson: The main finding is that both first-degree relatives (+28%) and spouses (+20%) are at increased risk of other autoimmune diseases. There are several plausible explanations for these findings. One is of course that individuals with celiac disease and their first-degree relatives share a genetic autoimmune predisposition, another potential explanation involves shared environment (relevant for both first-degree relatives and spouses) but finally we cannot rule out that a certain degree of increased awareness of signs and symptoms in both first-degree relatives and spouses might lead to more examinations and thereby diagnoses (so-called ascertainment bias). Probably all these mechanisms contributed to the finding. (more…)