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Understanding the immune response in people with myasthenia gravis

Dr Leite will use the latest techniques to find out more about the proteins that trigger the immune response which causes myasthenia gravis (MG). The aim is to provide a better understanding about the cause of MG and to improve future treatments.
Principal Investigator
Dr Maria Isabel Leite
University of Oxford
Official title
The evolution of the antibody-mediated immune response in anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody myasthenia gravis
36 months
Total cost
Myasthenia gravis

Project background

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an auto-immune condition that causes long-term muscle weakness.

To keep us healthy, our immune system uses specialised cells, called B-cells, to produce proteins known as antibodies. These antibodies recognise and attack viruses and bacteria that enter our body. But in some cases, the immune system attacks our own cells. This is called an auto-immune response, and it creates a health condition. In MG, the protein recognised by antibodies is called the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) ‒ this is needed for communication between nerves and muscles. However, it is unclear what triggers B-cells to produce antibodies that so strongly recognise and attack the AChR.

Project aims

The researchers aim to find the initial trigger of the auto-immune response that causes MG, by looking at the DNA from the B-cells of people who have MG and to compare them to the original B-cell DNA which doesn’t have these condition-causing changes. They will also produce different types of antibodies and their targets (called antigens) to better understand what triggers the condition.

Why this research is important

It is currently unclear what exactly triggers the auto-immune response in MG. Understanding what triggers MG is essential for developing future therapies and treatments and monitoring the progression of this condition.

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