Now A RA Vaccine


vaccine needle

We generally associate vaccines with protection from infectious diseases such as measles and the flu.  However, scientists have developed a vaccine to prevent an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis.  We’ll call it RA for short and it mostly affects women. The immune system attacks multiple body systems but more often the tissues lining the joints of hands, wrists, feet, ankles, knees, shoulders, and elbows.  

There’s a hypothesis that some of our auto-antibodies, which remove certain proteins and tamp down on the immune system, can be used to protect us from developing RA. Now researchers are trying to induce this process. They discovered this auto-antibody when they began to look at certain proteins and their roles in RA and honed in on fourteen-three-three-zeta. They found that it’s involved in the regulation of immune response but not in they way they had guessed.  When they made a mouse lacking the gene, it developed early onset arthritis which suggests it has an arthritis suppressive mechanism.   They then made the fourteen three three zeta protein in bacteria and used it to immunize normal mice and mice without the gene and it protected both groups against RA.  

How this gene does that isn’t clear, but people with RA have lower levels of the antibody.  In mouse models, the vaccine works better than current treatments.  The next step is clinical trials which is still a long process, but this type of research gives hope to the twenty million people worldwide who suffer from RA.       

We are Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog, at UTMB and Quinnipiac University, where biomedical discoveries shape the future of medicine.   Sign up for expanded print episodes.

More Information

14-3-3ζ: A suppressor of inflammatory arthritis
Inflammatory arthritis (IA) affects more than 1% of the world population. Natural host-protective immune responses to suppress or prophylactic immunization to prevent IA remain unknown. We previously showed that 14-3-3ζ is an autoantigen in large vessel vasculitis. In the current study, we examined the role of antigenic 14-3-3ζ using animal models of IA. 

Groundbreaking vaccine delivers extra-long protection against rheumatoid arthritis
University of Toledo researchers have made a significant breakthrough in the study of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects up to 1% of the global population and approximately 1.3 million people in the United States. Led by Dr. Ritu Chakravarti, an assistant professor in the University’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences, the team has developed an experimental vaccine that shows significant promise in preventing the disease.