Autoimmune diseases are caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking parts of our own body. Current treatments do not tackle the specific trigger for each individual disease. Instead, they treat the disease by dampening down the whole immune system. Unfortunately, this often causes additional complications, increasing the likelihood of infections and cancers. Our aim is to transform how we treat autoimmune diseases by selectively switching off the cells causing the disease. The evidence that we have from other autoimmune diseases is that this will be achievable in myasthenia gravis (MG).

This project, supervised by Drs Jacob and Sadalage (University Hospitals Birmingham) and Professor David Wraith (Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy at University of Birmingham), is looking at disease-specific immunotherapy, and is one of the first studies to do so in myasthenia. What is meant by disease-specific immunotherapy is using antigens to suppress the immune response found in myasthenia gravis – this is what can trigger symptoms such as muscle fatigue.

To achieve this, Dr Pyae Phyo San is working to create ‘designer’ antigens, which have been previously shown to work in treating other autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and Graves’ disease. These antigens will be designed to mimic the proteins that are usually found in myasthenia patients that trigger an immune response. With this, it is hoped that Dr San can test whether these designer antigens can be used to selectively suppress the immune response.

Read more about Dr Jacob’s and research, visit his page on the University of Birmingham website.

Learn more about Professor Wraith’s lab group, visit his research profile.

Myaware research