Research Advances in Sjogren's Syndrome


Project description

Primary Sjogren's syndrome is a systemic disease caused by an overreaction of the immune system against lachrymal and salivary glands, leading to impairments of tear and saliva production and subsequent dryness of eyes and mouth. The disease can also affect other organs including the joints, skin, nerves, kidneys or lungs.

The research team uses resources from the Rochester Epidemiology Project to understand the prevalence of Sjogren's syndrome in the general population worldwide, as previous estimates vary greatly. By examining data from a 40-year period (1976-2016), the team has found that the disease affects 0.02 to 0.1 percent of the adult population, with a progressive increase of the rate of new cases over the last four decades. Further analyses of this cohort are ongoing.

A second research goal is to understand the roles of B cells in the disease. The team is studying the role of these specialized immune cells in Sjogren's syndrome using serum immunoglobulin profiling by mass spectrometry. This new method could lead to the development of new markers to facilitate the diagnosis and to predict the occurrence of complications, including lymphoma in patients with Sjogren's syndrome.

Additionally, researchers on this project are characterizing autoreactive B cells. Better understanding of their characteristics allows the team to compare these cells with normal cells and to make connections and comparisons between Sjogren's syndrome and other autoimmune diseases.

This project began in 2015, when Dr. Cornec started a fellowship in Dr. Specks' lab at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Cornec is a rheumatologist at Brest University in France, the National Reference Center for Sjogren's syndrome. Dr. Specks is one of the leading physicians worldwide in the field of systemic vasculitis. Their investigations of the similarities and differences between Sjogren's syndrome and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis provided the spark for this project.

This unique research is further facilitated by Mayo Clinic's breadth and depth of research facilities, including Dr. Murray's team in the Department of Immunology, and the Rochester Epidemiology Project, in which Dr. Matteson holds a central role in studying autoimmune diseases.

Impact on patient care

Sjogren's syndrome impairs the quality of life of affected patients profoundly. Early diagnosis and proper treatments are important to prevent serious complications and improve quality of life.

A better knowledge of the epidemiology of the disease will facilitate the development program of future therapies. A better understanding of the roles of B cells in the mechanisms leading to autoimmune diseases could lead to the development of markers to predict serious complications and define new therapeutic targets.


Part of this research project was made possible through a generous gift from the Davis family to Mayo Clinic.

The Rochester Epidemiology Project is supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01AG034676 and CTSA grant number UL1 TR000135 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr. Cornec received a grant from the French Society for Rheumatology (SFR) and from Brest University Hospital for his fellowship at Mayo Clinic.