'Revolutionary': a new hope for treating autoimmune disease

Friday, April 15, 2016

Written by Tabitha Carvan

When I first met Professor Carola Vinuesa, she invested well over an hour of her time to explain her work at the Centre for Personalised Immunology (CPI) to me. She speaks with such urgency, and passion, that this would be like three hours at normal speaking rate. She even drew on the whiteboard. I remember a stick figure and then an arrow pointing to a drawing of a mouse and then back again to the person.

The science of it is mind-bending for a lay-person: you edit the DNA of a mouse (!) so that it has the identical genetic mutation of a particular human (!) suffering from an auto-immune condition. And then, using the mouse model, you can develop specific treatments just for that person.

“So, if I was a patient,” I asked. “There would be a ‘mouse-me’ somewhere in the lab?”

“No,” she said. “There would be many ‘mouse-yous.’”

When I met Penny, a patient at the CPI, I was extremely eager to ask about her mouse model.

She looked confused.

“What mouse?” she said.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the most important part of a story.

Click here to read Penny's story. 

Pictured: Carola Vinuesa, Credit: James Walsh, ANU Science Media