Genetic discovery offers potential autoimmune treatments

Researchers have raised the possibility of new autoimmune disease treatments with fewer side effects.

Gene: tyrosine kinase 2 (TYK2) how it can help?

Many current treatments for diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease involve deliberately weakening the body’s immune system. Scientists researching a particular gene — tyrosine kinase 2 (TYK2) — found a single variant could protect against multiple autoimmune diseases.

Professor Lars Fugger Said this:

Professor Lars Fugger who led the research, and from the University of Oxford, said: “While our research indicates that TYK2 could be a good drug target for treating autoimmune diseases, drugs that block the activity of immune cells have been known to leave patients vulnerable to infections and to increase the risk of cancer.

“However, by interrogating data available through the UK Biobank, the most comprehensive health study in the UK, we found that people carrying the protective TYK2 genetic variant were no more likely to have serious infections or to develop cancer than people without the variant.”

Role of Protein:

The protein produced by the TYK2 gene plays a role in how the body fights infections and cancer. It has also has been linked to the promotion of autoimmune diseases. TYK2 was discovered through studying ‘experiments of nature’ – naturally-occurring genetic variants that influence normal biological mechanisms.  Dr Calliope Dendrou, also from the University of Oxford and first author of the study described it as “the idea that there is a relationship between the gradient of protein function and the balance between health and disease.”

Where this Approach can be used:

This approach could be applied to other diseases such as cystic fibrosis. Dr Dendrou said: “Determining the relationship between genetic variation and molecular/cellular function and the impact this has on different diseases is invaluable information when it comes to using ‘experiments of nature’ to help predict which molecules can by targeted by drugs, how they can be targeted, and the likely impact of targeting in terms of both efficacy and safety.”



The research suggests the creation of a pharmaceutical drug able to produce the impact of the protective of TYK2 variant could pave the way for new autoimmune disease treatments that balance efficacy with safety.

This article was Published in Science Translational Medicine.

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