New Grant Will Support Research Into Role of ‘Inflammageing’ in AAV
Inflammation due to aging may be at root of ANCA-associated vasculitis
Vasculitis UK is supporting a team of scientists investigating whether rising levels of inflammation due to aging — a process dubbed inflammageing — may be at the root of ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV).
The charity has awarded a research grant to professors at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, to determine if inflammageing could be one of the fundamental processes driving initial disease in AAV.
The grant was given to Nollaig Bourke, PhD, an assistant professor of medical gerontology, who serves as the project’s lead investigator. Mark Little, PhD, a professor in Trinity’s School of Medicine, is the project’s co-applicant.
“This award will allow us to explore the important contribution that ageing and associated inflammation are playing in the development and pathology of this devastating disease,” Bourke said in a university press release.
Understanding why certain older people and not others develop AAV will help clinicians to better identify individuals who are at risk early in the disease’s development, the team noted.
In people with AAV, the immune system erroneously produces self-reactive antibodies, called anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCA), that cause blood vessel inflammation and damage.
To date, research suggests that immune deregulation in AAV is caused by a combination of factors, including genetics and environmental factors. Yet, the origins of this autoimmune condition remain incompletely understood.
A curious hallmark of AAV, according to scientists, is its late onset, with patients typically being diagnosed in their early 60s. Researchers know that as people get older, inflammation levels generally increase, a process generally known as inflammageing.
The new project supported by Vasculitis UK will now evaluate the contribution of aging to inflammation in the immune system, and assess how this could be linked to the development of AAV.
The team hopes to determine whether inflammageing is at the root of AAV onset. If they can understand why some older adults develop AAV, that knowledge could be used for the earlier identification of those at risk. Ultimately, the goal is to prevent tissue destruction due to exacerbated inflammatory responses.
Currently available AAV therapies are based on immunosuppressive medications that have a broad action and no specific targets, the researchers noted. The use of these medications also has been linked to serious side effects. The new project also will address this issue by finding AAV-specific inflammatory responses that could be targeted with new therapies.
Research will be based on detailed clinical and biological data integrated in the Rare Kidney Disease Registry and Biobank, basedat Trinity College — a resource established by Little in 2012 with support from the Meath Foundation.
The grant application was supported by data generated by Isabella Batten, an Irish Research Council (IRC) PhD candidate who conducted a pilot study into inflammation and aging for her PhD project.