This study points to the potential to develop future therapies that can manipulate the action of the proteins in persons harboring risk alleles at EBNA2-bound loci, conclude the study investigators.
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Explore This IssueOctober 2019
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Based on the specific findings of the study, the investigators plan to further investigate particular transcription factors and cell types for 94 phenotypes they’ve nominated to help provide a better understanding of the molecular and cellular origins of disease risk. “As new genetic association and TF [transcription factor] binding data are collected, approaches such as this will undoubtedly identify further disease mechanisms,” concludes Dr. Harley for the investigators.
The investigators are hoping experts on various diseases will share their results and collaborate to better understand these mechanisms. To that end, they have made their computer tools available online, along with their study data and results.
“My hope is that the study spurs further research into this connection,” says Dr. Nigrovic, “for example, to test experimentally the role of ENBA2 in the regulation of RA and lupus target genes.”
Most important to Dr. Nigrovic is what the study findings suggest may be the best target of all—prevention of autoimmunity. “To me, the most exciting implication is for prevention,” he says. “EBV infection increases with age, and ultimately, most people become infected. If we could prevent infection—by vaccination, for example—then it is possible we could reduce the incidence of autoimmune disease substantially. That’s an amazing prospect.”