Viruses and autoimmunity
Viruses have been suggested to be a triggering factor for autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease. In these projects we employ high-throughput sequencing as a means to detect viruses directly in affected tissue.
About the project
Type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease are both characterised by autoimmune destruction of specific endocrine tissue, in the pancreas and thyroid, respectively. Although progress has been made in identification of genetic predisposing factors for these diseases, little is known about the initial triggers, which are likely of environmental origin. For many years, a leading candidate for such a trigger has been viral infection. However, conclusive evidence has been lacking, partly because investigations often have not been done directly on the affected tissue, or the investigations have been done long after the initial diagnosis, when any traces of infection may have disappeared.
As a response to these objections, two separate projects under the leadership of Professor Knut Dahl-Jørgensen have been established that involves collecting biopsies from the affected organ in newly diagnosed patients with type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease. These samples are subjected to a range of methods for virus detection, as well as histochemical, immunological and serological analyses. As part of the strategy for detecting viruses, Post doctor Morten Christoph Eike and Senior engineer Helle Akselsen in our group employs a new approach that involves massively parallell RNA sequencing on a selection of these samples. This approach allows searching for any known virus, in contrast to traditional approaches that are restricted to narrow ranges within pre-specified viral families. Moreover, sequencing-based methods are both potentially more sensitive and allows for more accurate identification of viruses than traditional approaches.
In addition to clinical and research groups at Oslo University Hospital and the University of Oslo, these projects also involve close collaboration with the research groups of Professor Heikki Hyöty at the University of Tampere, Finland and Professor Olle Korsgren at Uppsala University, Sweden.