Research Progress Related to Sjögren’s Syndrome
Investigators at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as investigators across the country, many supported by the NIH, are working to understand what causes Sjögren’s syndrome, which may lead to new treatment strategies. A number of efforts are also aimed at testing the efficacy of medications that have been shown to work for other autoimmune diseases.
Following are examples of the types of studies that are ongoing.
- Scientists are working to uncover the molecules and immune cells involved in the autoimmune attack in Sjögren’s syndrome. This work may help identify new therapeutic targets.
- Clinical trials are underway to test the efficacy of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs in people with Sjögren’s syndrome. Some of these drugs are novel, while others are used to treat other rheumatic conditions. They work by targeting specific immune messages and interrupting the signal, helping to decrease or stop inflammation.
- Researchers believe that genetics is a contributing factor in who gets Sjögren’s syndrome, but the role of genes remains unclear. It appears that multiple genes are involved, and research is underway to identify them.
- The characteristics of Sjögren’s syndrome can vary widely from person to person, and investigators are working to group patients according to patterns of symptoms, which will help researchers develop tailored therapies that better address the problems associated with each subset.
- It can take years to diagnose Sjögren’s syndrome because the symptoms are so diverse, and they are shared with other diseases and conditions. Scientists are looking for ways to diagnose the disease earlier, such as by identifying biomarkers or using imaging techniques such as ultrasound scanning of salivary glands. Pinpointing the syndrome earlier will enable doctors to treat it sooner, potentially leading to better outcomes for patients.