Aluminum compound triggers disease in genetically susceptible mice

Researchers used an aluminum-based compound to activate a Sjögren’s syndrome-like disease in mice.

OMRF scientist Umesh Deshmukh, Ph.D., found that aluminum could be a trigger for Sjögren’s—an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s moisture-producing glands—in mice that were genetically susceptible to the disease. The research was published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology.

“This study looked at the role of alum, an aluminum-based compound, in setting off a Sjögren’s syndrome-like disorder in mice,” Deshmukh said.

Just as in humans, autoimmune diseases require a combination of genetic and environmental causes to manifest, he said. In this study, the mice had the right genes to develop the disease, and the alum set the process in motion.

“Alum is known to activate a pathway called inflammasome, which leads to inflammation,” he said. “Within 8 weeks, the mice treated with alum showed significantly lower saliva production.”

The goal of the study is to understand the role of innate immunity—the heavy-handed first wave of the immune system—in the development of autoimmune disease.

“It’s important to note that this result occurs in specially bred mice, not in humans,” he said. “We’re not trying to cause a panic.”

Deshmukh said the next step is to look at another mouse model to see if aluminum triggers the innate immunity in it, as well.

Funding for this research was provided by grants No. DE019883 and DE022977, from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and No. AI079621, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.