Risk factors and disease mechanisms in myositis
Autoimmune diseases develop as a result of chronic inflammation owing to interactions between genes and the environment. However, the mechanisms by which autoimmune diseases evolve remain poorly understood. Newly discovered risk factors and pathogenic processes in the various idiopathic inflammatory myopathy (IIM) phenotypes (known collectively as myositis) have illuminated innovative approaches for understanding these diseases. The HLA 8.1 ancestral haplotype is a key risk factor for major IIM phenotypes in some populations, and several genetic variants associated with other autoimmune diseases have been identified as IIM risk factors. Environmental risk factors are less well studied than genetic factors but might include viruses, bacteria, ultraviolet radiation, smoking, occupational and perinatal exposures and a growing list of drugs (including biologic agents) and dietary supplements. Disease mechanisms vary by phenotype, with evidence of shared innate and adaptive immune and metabolic pathways in some phenotypes but unique pathways in others. The heterogeneity and rarity of the IIMs make advancements in diagnosis and treatment cumbersome. Novel approaches, better-defined phenotypes, and international, multidisciplinary consensus have contributed to progress, and it is hoped that these methods will eventually enable therapeutic intervention before the onset or major progression of disease. In the future, preemptive strategies for IIM management might be possible.