Medicine:VEXAS syndrome

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Short description: Auto-inflammatory syndrome

VEXAS syndrome is an adult-onset autoinflammatory disease primarily affecting males, caused by a somatic mutation of the UBA1 gene in hematopoietic progenitor cells.[1][2][3][4][5] The name VEXAS is an acronym deriving from the core features of disease:[6]

V: Vacuoles are often identified in the bone marrow stem cells of patients presenting with VEXAS.

E: The E1 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme encoded by the UBA1 gene is mutated in patients.

X: The mutated UBA1 gene is located on the X-chromosome and thus the disease is almost exclusively found in individuals with XY chromosomes and thus said to be X-linked.

A: Patients with VEXAS present with a wide array of Autoinflammatory conditions

S: The mutations which cause VEXAS are Somatic, meaning that they are acquired throughout life, not inherited, and unable to be passed onto one's offspring.

Signs and Symptoms

The disease arises in late adulthood (typically after the age of 50) and causes both autoinflammatory and hematologic symptoms.[7] Fever and skin conditions—particularly rashes resembling those seen in Sweet syndrome—are common signs. Other autoinflammatory conditions that can occur in individuals with VEXAS syndrome include periorbital angioedema, uveitis and scleritis, relapsing polychondritis, and polyarteritis nodosa. Inflammation may also affect the lungs.[7][8] Hematologic issues include macrocytic anemia, a low platelet count, and a predisposition towards developing hematologic malignancies, especially myelodysplastic syndrome. On bone marrow examination, people with the disease exhibit abnormal vacuoles in precursor cells of the myeloid and erythroid lineages.[7]


VEXAS syndrome becomes more severe over time and carries a high mortality rate. Symptoms can be managed with high-dose corticosteroid therapy, but this can cause serious adverse effects, and symptoms typically recur after the dosage is lowered. For this reason, a variety of alternative treatments are under investigation.[7][8] The molecular mechanism of VEXAS is currently unknown.

History and Discovery

The syndrome was identified by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and scientists led David B. Beck, Peter Grayson, and Daniel L. Kastner.[9][10] It was first reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in October 2020 where Beck et al wrote: "Using a genotype-driven approach, we identified a disorder that connects seemingly unrelated adult-onset inflammatory syndromes".[9] An editorial in the same issue describes the work as a "fascinating discovery" which "is of immediate importance to rheumatologists and has far-reaching consequences of general clinical interest. It builds on previous findings suggesting that postzygotic somatic mutation may be a more frequent cause of human disease than previously recognized".[11]

In 2022, the American Society of Hematology deemed the discovery of VEXAS the "year’s best advancement in hematology-related diagnoses", citing how researching VEXAS will potentially improve the classification of hematologic (blood-based) and adult-onset recurrent autoimmune diseases like relapsing polychondritis.[12]

Ongoing Investigation

Since VEXAS was first described in 2020, there has been global interest in understanding the disease. In 2022 the National Cancer Institute announced a three-year clinical trial to evaluate stem cell transplant as a possible treatment for patients with VEXAS.[13] Scientists, including one of the original discovers David B. Beck, at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and NYU Langone Health are also actively researching the condition.[14][15][16][17]


  1. Onuora, Sarah (1 December 2020). "Somatic mutations cause VEXAS syndrome". Nature Reviews Rheumatology 17 (1): 1. doi:10.1038/s41584-020-00559-x. ISSN 1759-4790. PMID 33262468. 
  2. Mathews, Stephanie (4 November 2020). "NIH Researchers Discover a New Inflammatory Disease Called VEXAS" (in en). 
  3. Edwards, Erika (27 October 2020). "'The VEXAS syndrome': Scientists discover a rare and deadly inflammatory disorder in men" (in en). NBC News. 
  4. "New inflammatory disease discovered" (in EN). National Institutes of Health. 3 November 2020. 
  5. Nelson, Bryn (14 December 2020). "VEXAS: A Newly Identified & Vexing Myeloid-Driven Inflammation". The Rheumatologist. Retrieved 16 December 2020. 
  6. Ganguly, Prabarna (27 October 2020). "Scientists use clues in the human genome to discover new inflammatory syndrome" (in en). National Human Genome Research Institute. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Grayson, PC; Patel, BA; Young, NS (2021). "VEXAS syndrome". Blood 137 (26): 3591–3594. doi:10.1182/blood.2021011455. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sterling, D; Duncan, ME; Philippidou, M; Salisbury, JR; Kulasekararaj, AG; Basu, TN (2022). "VEXAS syndrome (vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory, somatic) for the dermatologist". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2022.01.042. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Beck, David B.; Ferrada, Marcela A.; Sikora, Keith A.; Ombrello, Amanda K.; Collins, Jason C.; Pei, Wuhong et al. (27 October 2020). "Somatic Mutations in UBA1 and Severe Adult-Onset Autoinflammatory Disease". New England Journal of Medicine 383 (27): 2628–2638. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2026834. PMID 33108101. 
  10. Azvolinsky, Anna (February 2022). "The Vexing VEXAS Syndrome" (in English). ASH Clinical News. 
  11. Levy-Lahad, Ephrat; King, Mary-Claire (27 October 2020). "Hiding in Plain Sight — Somatic Mutation in Human Disease". New England Journal of Medicine 383 (27): 2680–2682. doi:10.1056/NEJMe2030754. PMID 33108100. 
  12. Hasserjian, Robert P. (7 January 2022). "This Year’s Best in Hematology Diagnosis: A New Disease Is Discovered". The Hematologist 19 (1). doi:10.1182/hem.V19.1.2022117. ISSN 1551-8779. 
  13. "A Phase II Study of Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant for Subjects With VEXAS (Vacuoles, E1 Enzyme, X-linked, Autoinflammatory, Somatic) Syndrome". 14 July 2022. 
  14. Relapsing Polychondritis Foundation (31 March 2022). "The Relapsing Polychondritis Foundation Invests in the Next Phase of VEXAS Research" (in en-US). 
  15. Bammert, David (22 June 2022). "The Relapsing Polychondritis Foundation Invests in Potentially Groundbreaking Collaborative Research" (in en-US). Relapsing Polychondritis Foundation. 
  16. Beck, David B.; Werner, Achim; Kastner, Daniel L.; Aksentijevich, Ivona (2022-05-06). "Disorders of ubiquitylation: unchained inflammation". Nature Reviews. Rheumatology. doi:10.1038/s41584-022-00778-4. ISSN 1759-4804. PMID 35523963. PMC 9075716. 
  17. "Research" (in en-US). Daivd B. Beck Laboratory. 1 July 2022. 

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