AS is a painful and progressive form of inflammatory arthritis, affecting around 200,000 people in the UK. The disease causes inflammation in the spine and other joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and fatigue.
Although treatment for AS has greatly improved in the past decade, a definitive cure has not yet been found and many patients suffer persistent symptoms or unacceptable side effects from current therapies.
AS has a strong genetic basis, with over 100 genetic variations linked to the condition. Through bioinformatics integration of genetic data and gene expression profiles of T cells from blood and joint fluid from patients with AS, the innovative programme of research will allow Dr Chen to identify novel T cell regulators in AS which are potential therapeutic targets.
Dr Chen says: “It’s very exciting to be able to look at AS through different lenses and bring such cutting-edge technologies to the table. The integration of multiple datasets (GWAS, eQTL and RNA sequencing of patient-derived T cells) and functional screen of identified genes using disease relevant cellular assays will allow us to identify genes that contribute to AS pathogenesis much faster than currently possible.”
Once the novel AS T cell regulators have been identified and validated in cellular assays, Dr Chen will focus on the most promising and novel regulators for their functional mechanisms and therapeutic potentials.
“I’m very grateful to Versus Arthritis for granting me the opportunity to contribute to such an important field or research, aiding their aims of finding a cure for major forms of arthritis and helping thousands of patients worldwide.” concludes Dr Chen.