Knowing that the molecule NF-kB is a prime candidate to track autoimmune activity because it is activated by inflammation, researchers at the University of Oslo engineered NF-kB to emit light when activated. NF-kB-mediated bioluminescence is a sensitive and early indicator of inflammation and disease.
The engineered molecule in mice will allow scientists to precisely identify incipient disease sites for biomedical and pathogenetic studies by tracking the development of autoimmune diseases before the onset of symptoms, an ability that had previously been impossible, keeping the causes of autoimmune diseases largely unknown.
In the article titled, “Tracking early autoimmune disease by bioluminescent imaging of NF-kB activation reveals pathology in multiple organ systems,” which appears in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Pathology, the investigators used a mouse model of systemic autoimmunity with features of lupus, and found that NF-kB activation signals were present in affected organs several weeks before the clinical manifestations of disease, and that the light signal intensity correlated with disease progression.
The team plans to utilize this new model in upcoming studies on early intervention—such as drug treatment—to prevent or treat autoimmune disease, and for studies of the development of B cell lymphoma.