Rheumatoid arthritis

T-helper cells “highly associated” with RA

Thursday, 2 Feb 2017


Scientists have identified a genetically distinct subset of helper T-cell associated with synovial tissues affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

In a letter published in Nature, the collaboration of researchers from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA, describe the ‘peripheral helper’ T-cells, or Tph cells, as having a unique pattern of behaviour in RA-affected synovial tissues.

They say the cells are genetically distinct from Tfh cells and are able to migrate to RA-affected joint tissue, where they can interact with B-cells locally.

Although further work is needed the results of this study show that Tph cells are highly associated with RA, and raise the possibility of a Tph cell association with other autoimmune disorders, the scientists write.

Co-author of the study Professor Christopher Buckley who is head of the Rheumatology Research Group at the University of Birmingham, said: “For years, genome-wide studies have suggested that T-cells are a key player in RA.

Having initially expected to find them in the lymph nodes, we have finally found them hiding in plain sight, within the synovial tissue itself.

‘Our findings imply that Tph cells are uniquely poised to promote B-cell responses and antibody production within pathologically inflamed non-lymphoid tissues, and suggest a promising novel treatment target for autoimmune disease such as RA.’

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