Autoimmune Processes May Drive IPF Progression, Vimentin Study Claims

Autoimmune Processes May Drive IPF Progression, Vimentin Study Claims

Autoimmunity may drive idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), according to a study that found a link between certain autoantibodies —those that target the body’s own cells and tissues — and disease progression in these patients.

The study, “Autoimmunity to Vimentin Is Associated with Outcomes of Patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis,” appeared in the Journal of Immunology.

In their quest to examine autoimmune processes in IPF, researchers had earlier discovered that IPF patients had higher levels of autoantibodies against a protein called vimentin. They also found that immune cells extracted from patients and later grown in the lab were more reactive against vimentin when compared to immune cells from healthy people.

Vimentin is an intracellular protein commonly found in the so-called cytoskeleton — fibers inside cells that give them structure and sometimes mobility.

To further explore the role of vimentin autoimmunity, the team recruited two groups of IPF patients — 102 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and 70 from the University of Pittsburgh.

It turned out that vimentin levels were higher in patients’ blood and lung tissue when compared to these same tissues from healthy people. Vimentin concentrations were also linked to lung function: higher levels were typically found in patients with more severe disease.

“We found a significant inverse correlation between levels of anti-vimentin autoantibodies and measures of pulmonary function, and these were remarkably similar in both independent IPF cohorts,” researchers wrote.

Serious adverse events were most common among patients with the highest levels of antibodies against vimentin, they noted. In fact, patients with the highest levels were 2.5 to 2.7 times more likely to experience adverse outcomes than those with the lowest levels.

In an attempt to study the molecular processes connecting vimentin to IPF, they exposed lab-grown cells to the transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta, a well established player promoting inflammation. This factor — which is also commonly higher in IPF patients — made cells produce and release more vimentin.

Overall, the study concluded, these findings “raise the possibility that therapies specifically directed at these autoimmune processes could have therapeutic efficacy.”


  1. Ronald C. MacNeil says:

    I was diagnosed with IPF in August 2017 at 77 years old. Since the breathlessness has completely taken over my life in less than two months I really appreciate the research that is being done to help people like me. I am currently in my first prescription of Esbriet and 24/7 of oxygen and would be willing to participate in any clinical trial I would be qualified .

    • Magdalena Kegel says:

      Hi Ronald,
      We frequently include information about clinical trials in our newsletter, so please sign up to make sure to receive the information.

      If you don’t want to wait for a newsletter, you can search the clinical trials registration page at for clinical trials in your area. Each trial page holds information about eligibility, locations, and contact details to study staff so that you or your doctor can directly contact them.

    • Stan L'Hoste says:

      Good luck with the trials, I have found them very hard to get info and acceptance into?? Support, info, central registration to the studies doesn’t seem to exist? In our tech world it seems like a search engine to assist patients seeking clinical studies would be an automatic, but haven’t found one.. Please let me know if you are aware of any and let’s stay in touch email to figure out this thing!!!!

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