The Western diet is responsible for the global spread of autoimmune diseases.


London-based scientists now hope to find effective cures for fast-spreading diseases through extensive DNA research.

More and more people around the world are suffering because their immune system can no longer distinguish healthy cells from invading microorganisms. The defenses that once protected them are now attacking their tissues and organs.

Significant international research efforts are underway to combat this trend, including an initiative at the Institute Francois Crick in London, where two world-class experts, James Lee and Carola Vinuesa, have set up separate research teams to help identify the exact causes of autoimmune diseases, as these conditions are known.

Autoimmune diseases are on the rise

“The number of autoimmune cases started rising about 40 years ago in the West,” Lee told the Observer. However, we are now seeing them appear in countries that have never had such diseases before. For example, the largest recent increase in inflammatory bowel disease has occurred in the Middle East and East Asia. Before that, they had barely seen the disease.

Autoimmune diseases range from Type 1 diabetes until the rheumatoid arthritisinflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis.

International now the incidence of autoimmune diseases is estimated to increase by 3-9% per year. Most scientists believe that environmental factors play a key role in this increase. “Human genetics has not changed in recent decadessaid James Lee, who previously worked at the University of Cambridge. “So something has to change in the outside world in a way that increases our susceptibility to autoimmune diseases.”.

The idea was backed by Carola Vinuesa, who previously worked at the Australian National University. He pointed to the dietary changes taking place as more countries adopted Western diets and people bought faster foods.

The effect of changes in eating habits

Fast food and fast food diets are lacking in some important ingredients, like fiber, and evidence shows that this change affects a person’s microbiome: the collection of microorganisms we have in our gut and which play a key role in a healthy diet. various bodily functions.

These changes in our microbiometo then trigger autoimmune diseasesYes, of which more than 100 types have now been discovered. The two scientists pointed out that individual sensitivities are involved in suffering from these illnesses, illnesses that also include celiac disease and lupus, which causes inflammation and swelling and can damage various organs, including the heart.

Unless you have a specific genetic susceptibility, you won’t necessarily develop an autoimmune disease no matter how many hamburgers you eat. There is little we can do to stop the global spread of fast food. Instead, we try to understand the fundamental genetic mechanisms that underlie autoimmune diseases and make some people vulnerable and others not. We want to tackle the problem at this level.

Track the genetic patterns that predispose to these diseases

This work is made possible by the development of techniques that now allow scientists to detect small DNA differences between large numbers of individuals. In this way, it is possible to identify common genetic patterns in those who suffer from an autoimmune disease.

“Until very recently we just didn’t have the tools to do this, but now we have this incredible power to sequence DNA at scale and that has changed everything.”said Lee. “When I started my research, we knew about half a dozen DNA variants involved in the activation of inflammatory bowel diseases. “Now we know more than 250.”

This work is central to Lee and Vinuesa’s efforts to understand how these different genetic pathways work and to elucidate the different types of diseases that doctors are currently studying. It will also help in choosing the most effective treatment.

“We have a lot of potentially useful new treatments that are constantly evolving, but we don’t know which patients to give them to, because we now realize that we don’t know exactly what version of the disease they have. And it is now a key target for research. We have to learn to group and stratify patients in order to give them the right treatment.”


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