Autoimmune Neurology Group
Research, diagnostic and testing service of autoantibodies associated with neurological diseases.
The immune system is our body's means of defence against harmful foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses. One of its roles is to produce antibodies, which are designed to selectively destroy disease-causing agents. Occasionally, however, antibodies mistake the body itself for these agents. These ‘autoantibodies’ lead to an 'autoimmune' condition that can involve almost any organ. If they target parts of the nervous system, autoimmune neurological conditions can result.
In many cases the autoantibodies can be depleted with treatment such as steroids and washing the blood with plasma exchange. But many patients don't respond well to the initial drugs, and require further medication to suppress the immune system. Despite treatments, many patients are also often left with problems, typically involving memory, mood or behaviour. Therefore, there is a pressing need to develop new medications based on a better understanding of the neurological conditions.
Our work is principally focussed on the detection of these neurological autoantibodies in patients, and developing a better understanding of their causes and treatment. The main disease categories which we study are the many forms of Autoimmune Epilepsy / Encephalitis and Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO).
Our research is focused on:
- Developing new autoantibody tests
- Understanding the mechanism of action of patient autoantibodies
- Appreciate which cells produce autoantibodies
- Study how these cells are best targeted with medications
In addition, the Group has established a national referral diagnostic service 25 years ago and performs over 500 serological autoantibody assays each week, 90% of these are for NHS patients. These tests help neurologists around the country, and abroad, to diagnose and hence treat their patients.