Dr. Jill Kramer at the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine will lead a research study into the role of a certain type of antibody in Sjögren’s syndrome and other autoimmune diseases, including lupus. The study, focused on determining whether IgM is indeed harmless or pathogenic, is funded by a National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award.
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which an exaggerated immune response leads white blood cells to attack healthy cells that produce tears and saliva. “The best patient care goes hand-in-hand with clinical research. Dr. Kramer’s study will use novel approaches to identify the type of autoantibodies responsible for Sjögren’s syndrome and is critical in guiding the development of better therapies for this disease,” Dr. Timothy Murphy, MD, principal investigator and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Medicine, said of the project in a press release.
Autoantibodies, the key players in many autoimmune diseases (notably lupus), are antibodies produced by the host’s immune system that target self-proteins. Immunoglobulin G (IgG), produced mainly to attack invading bacteria and other pathogens, is the most common type of antibody in circulation, and also the most studied in autoimmune diseases due to the proven harm it can do to a host. But IgM, the focus of Dr. Kramer’s research study, is also increased in Sjögren’s syndrome and lupus erythematosus. IgM is the first antibody to appear in humoral immune response, eliminating pathogens in the early stages of infection, before a stronger and more specific response by IgG sets in.
Researchers will use mouse models of Sjögren’s syndrome to extract IgM antibodies, which will then be administered to mice without the ability to produce their own antibodies. This way, researchers will observe if the rodents develop symptoms of the disease, which could point to a pathogenic effect. Additionally, a separate group of mice will be subjected to the same experiment but with IgG antibodies. The researchers expect to further understand IgM’s role in autoimmune diseases and develop new therapeutic strategies to prevent its harmful effects.
Dr. Kramer is an assistant professor and oral biology researcher at Buffalo, and her study is titled “Analysis of the Source and Significance of IgM in Sjögren’s syndrome.”