Today, we’re excited to announce the publication of a landmark paper in the leading journal “Cell” from SRF-funded researcher Dr. Howard Chang, Dr. Bingfei Yu, and Dr. Chang’s group at Stanford University, which identifies several novel functions of XIST, the long noncoding RNA that silences the genes of the second X chromosome in females.
Their findings illuminate why female immune responses can differ from those of males: XIST is continuously required to silence certain X-linked genes in adult female B cells, and failure of this process results in the production of atypical B cells. While atypical B cells may be advantageous when fighting an infection, they can sometimes recognize self-proteins and promote autoimmunity.
According to Scleroderma Research Foundation Chairman Luke Evnin, Ph.D., “The research done by Dr. Chang and his team sheds new light on immunity and autoimmunity in females and is a model for investigating other sex-based differences in immune cell function. At the Scleroderma Research Foundation, it is our hope that Dr. Chang’s continuing research effort will lead to therapeutic interventions for patients with autoimmune diseases, including scleroderma.”