What is immune disease?

Immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs) are common medical conditions which can cause a great deal of pain, distress, loss of function and, in some cases, early death in those affected by them. It is difficult to know the precise number of people in the UK affected by such diseases, however we know that rheumatoid arthritis affects roughly 700,000 people for example. Many diseases of the immune system share similar genetic, environmental and inflammatory factors.

Although the treatment of a significant proportion of people with IMIDs has been revolutionised through the use of biologic drugs and more informed treatment strategies, some patients still show no response to therapies that work for others, or develop resistance to the treatments over time.  A more precise approach that treats the right patient, with the right drug at the right dose and time is essential. This can only be achieved through in-depth study of large datasets derived from patients affected by IMIDs. By analysing detailed information about individual patients and their samples, researchers can produce a "molecular map" that would allow their clinician to develop a more informed treatment plan which will provide a better outcome for that individual with fewer risks. This is why clinical trials are key to helping researchers understand how diseases like rheumatoid arthritis develop and respond to therapy over time. 

Here in Glasgow we have a particular interest in the following diseases.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term condition in which painful inflammation of joints, if left untreated, can lead to joint damage and disability. It affects approximately 1% of adults, causing considerable morbidity and reduced quality of life.  Whilst it is more common in older adults, it is known to affect people of any age. For most patients, the earlier that effective treatment is introduced, the better the control of joint inflammation and the less likely patients are to develop permanent joint damage. Whilst a number of treatments are available for RA, none work for every patient and there is no way of telling which treatment will work best for which person prior to treatment.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a kind of arthritis that develops in a subset of people affected by psoriasis. It usually develops within ten years of psoriasis diagnosis and can affect up to 2 in 5 people with psoriasis.  It causes joints to become swollen, stiff and painful.  This is generally a long term condition that becomes progressively more painful over time. In some cases the joints can become permanently deformed.  Surgery can sometimes help to correct this.  If diagnosed early, and with appropriate treatment, it is possible to slow the progress of the disease in some patients and so avoid damage to the joints.  It is not known why some people affected by psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis and not others.