In addition, a group of Swedish researchers presented findings from a study at the American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) November 2010 annual meeting showing that people with Sjögren’s syndrome had skewed B cell maturation after receiving the H1N1 flu vaccine, resulting in higher amounts of vaccine-specific antibodies that may be related to inflammation. While the patients developed immunity against the flu, the study may reveal some links between B cells and autoimmune problems in Sjögren’s syndrome.

Genetic cues: A group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, reported on their study focusing on better ways to diagnose Sjögren’s, including identifying microRNAs, or genes, that may be related to the disease. The researchers used biopsies, or tissue sample studies, from salivary glands. The study showed promising results in identifying a genetic biomarker for the disease, aiding its proper diagnosis so treatment can begin promptly.

Gene therapy: Gene therapy is one of the most exciting areas of disease research, where targeted molecules are inserted into patients’ genetic tissue in an effort to correct malfunctions that cause disease. At the ACR 2010 meeting, a group of Dutch researchers reported the findings of their gene therapy study targeting B cells in mice. The researchers used B cell-targeting gene therapy to treat the salivary glands of mice, and found that they were able to reduce autoimmune-related inflammation. They believed their findings suggested that such gene therapy would aid people with Sjögren’s syndrome.

Another study conducted at the University of Florida investigated delivering Small Interfering RNA genetic material, or siRNA, into cells in the lab, a process that showed promising results in preventing inflammatory reactions. The researchers stressed that this therapeutic strategy could be easily manipulated to target different genes, and could have potential as a Sjögren’s treatment.

Artificial salivary glands: Researchers are trying to develop artificial or regenerated salivary glands to help people with Sjögren’s syndrome relieve dry mouth symptoms. Scientists are experimenting with tissue engineering, gene therapy-like techniques, and stem-cell methods to help malfunctioning salivary glands start producing the half-liter of saliva needed daily to prevent oral disease.