Is it Possible to Predict & Prevent Autoimmune Conditions?
Kevin Deane, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver
Inflammation plays a crucial role in the body’s immune response. It is the body’s effort to heal itself from injury, protect itself from viruses and bacteria, and repair damaged tissue. You’ll recognize inflammation is occurring when you feel swelling, warmth, and sometimes pain and immobility and see the area turn red. This is due to biochemical processes releasing proteins called cytokines that act as “emergency signals” that call in your body’s other resources (immune cells, hormones and nutrients) to fix the problem. Without inflammation, an injury or infection could kill you.
Inflammation can also become a problem, though, in chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). When the immune system begins to attack parts of the body that should not be considered foreign or injured—attacking parts of YOU—then it’s called an autoimmune response (auto- means ‘self’). In this case, the immune system has gone awry, leading to an unwanted inflammatory process. Is there any way to predict who might develop an autoimmunity or when it might happen? And can it be prevented? Dr. Deane, rheumatologist and researcher at UC Denver, was joined by autoimmune patients from across the country, as well as CreakyJoints staff, for a one-hour webinar to discuss research into predicting and preventing autoimmune conditions. The presentation is followed by a lengthy Q&A with Dr. Deane, an expert in the field.
Dr. Deane and his team are conducting the StopRA trial to help answer important questions in this area. StopRA is a research study whose goal is to prevent RA in people who don’t yet have RA, but who are at risk for future RA because of an elevated blood test called CCP. Since RA runs in families, they are interested in talking with you and your family about participating in StopRA and getting tested for CCP. For more information, go to ClinicalTrials.gov or contact StopRA study coordinator Marie Feser at (303) 724-7510 or [email protected].
Here are a few of our key learnings:
- It’s much easier to put out a candle or a camp fire than it is to extinguish a forest fire. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment of an autoimmune response is important. It is far easier to manage a haywire inflammatory process before it establishes itself in the body and gets out of control.
- There are few things that can be done to help prevent an autoimmune disease. Personal health is a contributor, so eat a healthy (Mediterranean) diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking. Hereditary factors play a role, so it’s important to know whether autoimmune disease runs in your family and watch for symptoms.
- Predicting an autoimmune condition is difficult since having a family history does not necessarily mean that you will develop autoimmunity. For most autoimmune conditions, autoantibodies appear in the blood 3-5 years before a person feels sick. Therefore, it is important to be aware of your family history, know your possible risk of developing an autoimmune disease, and stay alert. Discuss these things with your doctor so you can make decisions early (at the candle stage).
Autoimmune and Systemic Inflammatory Syndromes Collaborative Research Group (ASIS CRG)
To learn more about the PCORnet Autoimmune and Systemic Inflammatory Syndromes Collaborative Research Group (ASIS CRG), click here.