Veena Taneja, Ph.D., receives research award from Military Health System for rheumatoid arthritis breakthroughs
Veena Taneja, Ph.D. (IMM ’98), received a 2017 Individual Research Accomplishment Award in the precision medicine category from the Military Health System for her groundbreaking discoveries about the link between rheumatoid arthritis and bacteria in the gut. The award was presented at the Military Health System Research Symposium in August 2017.
Dr. Taneja is an immunologist in the Division of Clinical Biochemistry & Immunology, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and an associate professor of immunology.
“The community of gut bacteria, known as the gut microbiome, is the ‘black box’ that may hold the clue of how rheumatoid arthritis develops. Many of the factors thought to cause rheumatoid arthritis are linked to the immune system, such as genetics, age, gender and lifestyle. All of these factors and the immune system affect gut bacteria. By exploring the gut microbiome, we are gaining a better understanding of the underlying processes that may lead to rheumatoid arthritis with the hope of developing individualized therapies to prevent or treat the disease,” says Dr. Taneja.
Her research revealed key discoveries:
- Patients with RA have an increase of rare bacteria that cause an imbalance in their gut bacteria. This means they have a distinct gut microbiome compared to healthy individuals. These unique characteristics may help researchers predict who is more susceptible to developing the disease.
- Based on studies in mouse models, researchers identified bacteria called prevotella histicola that helped prevent the disease from developing in healthy mice and also stopped the disease from progressing in mice with the condition. This discovery is leading to the development of a customized probiotic, containing this bacterial strain, to either prevent or treat RA. Since this bacterial strain was developed from human gut bacteria, it may have fewer side effects than current medications being used to treat the disease.
Learn more about Dr. Taneja’s research findings: