Protein biomarkers that protect against disease development found

Scientists have found a number of protein biomarkers they say have a direct causal effect on protecting or promoting disease development.

Scientists used a method called Mendelian Randomisation to identify these protein biomarkers. Researchers revealed that they targeted almost one hundred protein biomarkers, previously associated with inflammatory disease. The study showed that IL-12B protects against psoriasis and psoriatic arthropathy, LAP-TGF-b-1 against osteoarthritis, TWEAK against asthma, VEGF-A against ulcerative colitis, and LT-a against both type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Only one biomarker was found to have a damaging effect, namely IL-18R1, which increased the risk of developing allergy, hay fever and eczema.

Taking a step back and looking at a bigger picture, it is widely known that Inflammatory processes are associated with a large range of human diseases, including rheumatic diseases and allergies. Protein biomarkers are measurable molecules that can have a prognostic value in patients, be used to diagnose disease, or indicate severity of disease. Today, a large number of plasma proteins have been identified as potential biomarkers for inflammatory diseases, where they are often highly expressed in patients with the disease.

However, the causal relationship between a protein biomarker and inflammatory diseases is generally unknown. The protein could either be expressed in response to the disease, to protect from tissue damage, or the high expression of the protein could be the underlying factor behind the development of disease.

This is where the current study comes into play.Using the Mendelian Randomisation scientists used genetic information to determine whether individuals born with high natural levels of a protein will have a higher or a lower risk of developing a disease.

The protective effects identified are important, since they can shed light on the pathogenesis of inflammatory disease. However, many of these proteins may serve, or are already being investigated, as potential drug targets.

“Since protein biomarkers are markers of disease, treatments that lower the levels of these proteins are a natural choice to treat symptoms of disease in patients. However, our results suggest that such treatments might have adverse effects in healthy tissues and possibly even increase the risk of a disease if used incorrectly,” says Åsa Johansson, group leader at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, SciLifeLab, Uppsala University, and the senior investigator behind the study.

“In addition, the proteins identified represent potential novel intervention points for disease prevention,” says Johansson.

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