Understanding Healthy Immune Systems

Understanding Healthy Immune Systems

Understanding Healthy Immune Systems

image descriptionCate Speake, PhD, leads the Sound Life Project

Sound Life Project

BRI opened enrollment for the Sound Life Project, a study in which researchers will track healthy immune systems over time. Seattle-area adults in two age cohorts — 25-35 and 55-65 — began to participate in this groundbreaking study to build a baseline of knowledge about the human immune system to understand disease.

“We’re especially interested in how lifestyle and environmental factors impact the immune system as we age, which is something that has been understudied in the past.”

The ultimate goal of the Sound Life Project is to lay the groundwork for better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent immune system diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The immune systems of healthy volunteers are examined to further our understanding of what constitutes “normal.”

“We will be conducting in-depth studies of how immune cells work in healthy people, using newly developed methods that allow us to gather more data from a blood sample than was ever possible before,” said Cate Speake, PhD, who leads the Sound Life Project. “We’re especially interested in how lifestyle and environmental factors impact the immune system as we age, which is something that has been understudied in the past.”

Volunteers provide blood samples and health information through in-person visits and a phone app developed at BRI, allowing researchers to track their immune systems over the course of two years.

The Sound Life Project is the initial phase of a research partnership led by the Allen Institute for Immunology. BRI’s role is to provide detailed information about healthy immune systems to serve as a foundation for existing and future disease research programs.

Other collaborators on this initial project of the Allen Institute for Immunology include Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the University of California San Diego, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Pennsylvania.

Watch Dr. Cate Speake and Kassidy Benoscek being interviewed on KING 5’s New Day Northwest program, discussing BRI’s Sound Life Project.

Virginia Mason Clinic Partnership Seeks Causes of Autoimmune Disease in People with Down syndrome

BRI’s Bernard Khor, MD, PhD, and Virginia Mason pediatrician Rebecca Partridge, MD, leveraged a grant from the National Institutes of Health to build a Down syndrome (DS) biorepository to research the connection between DS and autoimmune disease.

The collection includes blood, serum and tissue samples, as well as medical histories, from volunteers, people with DS and their relatives, with and without autoimmune diseases. The DS population has long been underrepresented in medical research, as nearly 50 percent of this population is living with at least one autoimmune disease.

People with DS have up to a 100-fold increased risk of developing autoimmunity, particularly type 1 diabetes, thyroid and celiac diseases, explained Jane Buckner, MD, BRI president and principal investigator for the grant. “Due in large part to a lack of research, our understanding of why people with DS are so prone to autoimmunity is limited, but BRI hopes to change this,” she said.

BRI is among the first to be awarded a grant dedicated to autoimmune disease in the DS population.

DS is a chromosomal condition associated with intellectual and physical challenges affecting about 400,000 children and adults in the United States.

Watch Dr. Khor and Dr. Partridge being interviewed on KING 5’s New Day Northwest program discussing volunteer needs for BRI’s Down syndrome biorepository.

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