A team of Stanford researchers have identified a novel immune-protective approach for treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other disorders of immune system function. By studying the T cells of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the inventors discovered that the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) enzyme, which in turn activates the JNK pathway, is implicated in accumulated DNA damage and premature T cell aging and apoptosis. Therapies that target these pathways could restore DNA repair mechanisms and rejuvenate the immune system to treat RA and other diseases characterized by chronic immune responses.
Current RA therapeutics, which aim to generally reduce inflammation or activation of immune response, have major side effects of infections and potentially tumor development. This alternative approach, with agents that target apoptotic machinery to rescue T cells from dying, is unlikely to impair the patient’s immune system.Ongoing Research
The inventors continue to study the upstream and downstream events connected to DNA-PK activity and how it affects T cell function.