MS & Artritis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are examples of autoimmune mediated inflammatory diseases (AIMID). AIMID arise from inappropriate reactions of the immune system against our own organs inducing inflammation and tissue damage. In MS the target of this autoimmune reaction is the protective myelin sheath surrounding the nerves in the central nervous system, i.e. brain and spinal cord. In RA, the autoimmune reactions are targeted at the joints, especially the cartilage needed for the smooth movements of the joints. The cause and the mechanisms responsible for the development and progression of MS and RA are unknown, which hampers the development of effective drugs.
The majority of animal models in preclinical research for MS (= experimentally-induced encephalomyelitis or EAE) and RA (=collagen-induced arthritis or CIA) is based on inbred laboratory mice and rats. However, it is increasingly clearer that these models have very low predictive value for the affectivity of new therapies in patients. Promising effects obtained in these animal studies can in 90% of the new drugs not be repeated in patients, and sometimes cause even unexpected serious side-effects. The BPRC uses for its research and development program on development and progression of MS and RA experimental models developed in monkeys, especially the rhesus macaque and the common marmoset. These models offer an important bridge between rodent and man due to the closely related immune systems of monkeys and man.
Research of the BPRC involves both applied and explorative research.
This line aims to obtain more knowledge regarding the immunological mechanisms underlying the development of MS and RA. In this research, BPRC uses the variation in susceptibility of the monkeys for de experimental diseases EAE and CIA. As in man, susceptibility of the monkeys to develop EAE or CIA is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Almost all currently identified susceptibility genes for MS and RA are involved in the immune system. The most important environmental factors are infections with viruses or bacteria and sun for the induction of vitamin D. Due to their close relationship of marmosets, macaques and man, EAE and CIA models in monkeys are very well suited to investigate how genetic and environmental factors are involved in the induction and course of disease.
Based on the knowledge in immunological mechanisms involved in the induction and course of MS and RA (see above), new therapies can be developed. These therapies are developed in close collaboration with developers of drugs, especially the R&D departments of (inter)national pharmaceutical companies and biotech. The importance of this research line is clear. The observations that specific physical or functional elimination of specific cell types or molecules can affect the induction or development of disease provide evidence that these cells or molecules play an important role in disease induction and progression.
It is clear that both lines are equally important.