Researchers from the ELKH Biological Research Centre (BRC) and the University of Szeged (SZTE) studied the mechanisms underlying the development and progression of systemic autoimmune diseases affecting multiple organs. The five-year joint project has successfully identified previously unknown clinical, molecular and immunological markers that help healthcare professionals diagnose autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, assess disease progression, predict the likely impact of medication and foresee complications.

Under the project, researchers examined blood samples from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and progressive systemic sclerosis (SSC) who had not been treated with drugs before, to study the mechanisms underlying the development or progression of these autoimmune diseases. In addition, consortium members created a specific autoimmune model in rodents.

The systemic research profile has enabled the identification of previously unknown clinical, molecular and immunological markers that help in the diagnosis of autoimmune and inflammatory pathologies, the assessment of disease progression, the expected impact of drug treatment and the prediction of complications. The researchers have also identified a new RA plasma marker – the 3-36 PYY protein – which may help in the early diagnosis of RA.

Multi-parameter phenotypic and functional profiling of individual cells was performed using the Helios bioanalytical mass cytometry system, which allows characterisation of individual cells based on multiple properties at a resolution previously unavailable. Researchers have identified several immune cell subpopulations that play a role in the pathomechanism of RA, SLE or SSC.

The five-year project was implemented with HUF 996.75 million in non-refundable EU funding under the Széchenyi 2020 programme’s “Excellence in Strategic R&D Workshops” module. The project resulted in 21 scientific publications in English, 10 conference presentations and 14 conference posters presented to the scientific community.

More details on the researchproject can be found at www.brc.hu.