Vaccine development

Inflamed ears from wearing earrings? The solution is simple; just take out the earrings and the inflammation disappears. Inflamed joints? Now the solution is complicated, because the trigger implicated in inflammation induction is unknown. As a consequence, current RA therapies focus on the treatment of inflammation symptoms instead of curing the disease. To achieve complete remission without side-effects, a vaccine should be developed that affects the trigger to induce RA. Therefore, we need to identify the molecular nature of the trigger responsible for autoimmunity. We aim to find this answer in HLA alleles that are protective for RA.

It is common knowledge that people carrying specific HLA alleles are predisposed to develop RA. However, individuals can also be protected from RA development by possessing protective HLA alleles, correlating with the absence of ACPA secreting B cells. Interestingly, this HLA-derived RA protection can be transferred from mother to child, even if the child does not bear protective HLA alleles. If the mother has a protective HLA type, and the child acquires protection without inheriting the protective HLA alleles, this suggests a protective agent transferred by blood from mother to child. This indicates that RA could be prevented by vaccination strategies. Currently, we try to identify this protective agent and the possibilities to use this agent for vaccine development.