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Meet Jessica from Newcastle University

Happy to introduce you to our new RTCure member, Jessica Swift. Jessica is doing research as a PhD student at Newcastle University and part of the Janssen R&D team.

“I am curious to see what the outcomes from my PhD research will be in terms of identifying antigen-specific T cell related biomarkers that may aid in the prediction of both early RA and treatment response.”


Patients that are in remission from RA do not possess classical RA symptoms. This poses the question whether these patients possess a distinct immune signature which separates them from both those with active disease and healthy individuals. This signature may reflect the state of the immune system in individuals destined to go on to develop RA, providing a basis for not only the production of novel therapeutics but also early diagnosis and ultimately, prevention. The main goal of my PhD is therefore, using samples collected via the RA-MAP consortium, to characterise and compare the immune profiles of patients responding to initial DMARD intervention, with those that do not.

To achieve this, I will focus mainly on the role that antigen-specific T cells play in RA. These cells have been highly implicated in both the onset and development of RA, where they have been shown to cause inflammation in response to self (rather than infectious agents). These are referred to as autoantigens, and a number have been described in RA.

Current work

So far, I have optimised a protocol that enables the visualisation, quantification and characterisation of antigen-specific T cells in both early and established RA patients as well as in healthy individuals. While I have found that all groups possess antigen-specific responses to these candidate RA autoantigens, it is clear that cells from RA patients tend to respond to a greater extent.

Future goals

In collaboration with Janssen R&D, the next steps in my research will be to apply my optimised protocol to the samples collected from the RA-MAP consortium, to compare the T cells from patients in remission and those with active disease. I also aim to further characterise these cells by looking at the exact roles they play within the different groups. This will allow us to build a picture of the T cell landscape across RA, where direct comparison may enable the detection of a pre-RA state.


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