In many autoimmune diseases auto-antibody producing B cell and/or antibodies against self-antigens are believed to be the causative agent that drives disease pathogenesis. In these diseases, persistence of antigen triggers continuous autoantibody formation and the development of long-lived B cell memory, both thought to be key factors for maintaining chronicity. Indeed, B-cell depleting therapies are effective in various auto-immune diseases. Nonetheless, this approach is not very specific and can lead to serious side-effects due to the concomitant loss of protective memory cells. Therefore, there is great interest in novel therapeutic approaches that specifically target autoreactive B cells.
In collaboration with Prof. Rene Toes and Dr. Uli Scherer at the Leiden University Medical Center we are exploring strategies to target B cells in an antigen-specific manner. As such, autoreactive B cells can be depleted specifically without effective protective memory cells. We additionally focus on isolating these B cells to identify novel biomarkers that can be used to gain a better understanding on the pathology of these autoimmune diseases.
This is a project funded by the Institute for Chemical Immunology