The basic and translational science year in review: Confucius in the era of Big Data.
Personalized medicine is an important goal for the treatment of rheumatic disease that seeks to improve outcomes by matching therapy more precisely with the underlying pathogenetic disturbances in the individual patient. Realization of this goal requires actionable biomarkers to identify these disturbances as well as pathways that can be targeted for novel therapy. Among advances in characterizing pathogenesis, Big Data provides an unprecedented picture of pathogenesis, with analysis of tissue lesions revealing disturbances that may not be apparent in blood. Big Data approaches include single cell RNAseq (scRNAseq) which can elucidate patterns of gene expression by individual cells. Galvanized by the Accelerating Medicines Partnership, a public-private initiative of the NIH, investigative teams have analyzed gene expression in cells in the synovium for rheumatoid arthritis and kidney for systemic lupus erythematosus. A review of basic and translational research for 2018-2019 provides the progress in these areas. Thus, the studies on rheumatoid arthritis have identified subpopulations of immune cells and fibroblasts implicated in synovitis. For lupus, transcriptomic studies have provided evidence for widespread effects of type 1 interferon. Studies in progressive sclerosis have demonstrated changes associated with stem cell therapy as well as potential new targets for anti-fibrotic agents. Other studies using molecular approaches have defined new mechanisms for vasculitis as well as the potential role of the microbiome in inflammatory arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Future studies with Big Data will incorporate the spatial relationships of cells in inflammation as well as changes in gene expression over time.
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