Dr. Vidyanand Anaparti, University of Manitoba
Supervisors: Dr. Hani El-Gabalawy and Dr. Neeloffer Mookherjee
The finding: First Nations people have elevated rates of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but it’s not clear why. Dr. Vidyanand Anaparti is studying First Nations people with a high risk of RA as they start to show symptoms to determine what factors precede or aid in the onset of the disease. One factor is microRNAs, which are “cellular switches” that turn genes on and off. Dr. Anaparti identified that first-degree relatives of people with RA have altered levels of microRNAs and how they are expressed varies depending on the type of immune cell.
Another cellular switch is called methylation, a biochemical process that controls gene expression. Dr. Anaparti found that the methylation of specific genes in RA patients was different and may play an important role in the development of RA. He also identified that the levels of metabolic markers (such as vitamin D, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, oxylipins, and adipokines) are changed in high risk, first-degree relatives of people with RA.
The future: Dr. Anaparti found that microRNAs and methylation have a direct influence on the expression of genes involved in RA. These findings are not unique to the indigenous population and may generally help to identify people at risk of developing RA.