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2016 Breakthroughs in Lupus Research

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the immune system develops antibodies that attack your body’s own organs and tissues. Lupus can target the joints, skin, brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys, leading to serious conditions, such as kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. The disease primarily targets women, but there is still much to be learned about this condition and what causes it.

Doctor diagnoses his patient with systemic lupus erythematosus

As a chronic autoimmune disease that affects more than 1.5 million people in the United States, Lupus is a serious medical condition that demands our attention. This disease can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are not constant and we still lack a reliable test to identify lupus. For those diagnosed with lupus, it can make life very difficult because it is a lifelong condition with no cure.

For these reasons it is important to continue advancing lupus clinical research in the search for better diagnostic capabilities, treatments, and hopefully even a cure. As the medical community continues to improve our knowledge of lupus, it is time to look back on a year that has seen some amazing breakthroughs in lupus research.

Treatment Success can be Determined by Imbalanced B Cells

A recent study conducted by researchers at University College London, has made an interesting discovery that could impact the way we determine individual treatments for people with lupus. The study focused on the role of B cells, highly important in the body’s immune response, in patients with lupus.

The study found that lupus patients have an unbalanced level of B cells compared to people without lupus. This could prove to be one of the factors that lead to people developing lupus. On top of having imbalanced B cells, the B cells in lupus patients also behave differently from those of healthy people.

In healthy people, certain B cell regulate the body’s immune response, but instead of regulatory cells, these B cells become pro-inflammatory cells in lupus patients. The lack of regulatory B cells allows an overproduction of interferon-alpha (IFN-?), a molecular signal to stimulate B cells, by plasmacytoid dendritic cells. This leads to more antibody-producing B cells.

The imbalance of B cells caused by the overproduction of IFN-? causes lupus patients to react differently to administered treatments. These treatments often aim to suppress the immune response, but the effectiveness of treatment could be determined by the IFN-? signature of the patient. Testing for IFN-? levels in patients could allow for better personalized treatment.

The Development of a New Immunosuppressant Treatment

Immunosuppressants are a common form of lupus treatment used that works to suppress the immune response in patients. The problem faced by immunosuppressant therapy is that this treatment can also weaken your immune system. However, there may be a new form of immunosuppressant therapy that reduces your immune response without weakening your immune system.

lab technician works on lupus research in lab

The drug, called LupuzorTM, is being developed by a research team at the CNRS Immunopathologie et Chimie Thérapeutique labs in Strasbourg. While LupuzorTM still needs to undergo more testing before it can be approved for market, the treatment has made it through phase I and phase II clinical trials with success and shows great promise.

Unfortunately, we may not see this immunosuppressant treatment in the States anytime soon, but it is something for people struggling with lupus to look forward too.

A New Lupus Treatment in the Form of an Old Cancer Treatment?

A new study, conducted by researchers from Australia and China, is testing the effectiveness of IL-2, originally used as an immune system booster, in treating lupus. The researchers were able to show the protein called IL-2, which occurs naturally in the immune system, helps lupus patients balance out their hyperactive immune systems.

The drug, originally designed to help fight cancer, is now being converted into use against lupus. For cancer patients IL-2 was administered in large doses to stimulate the immune system, but this study found that low doses of IL-2 administered to lupus patients suppressed the immune system, preventing it from attacking the body. The drug has not yet moved into lupus clinical trials, but it is showing great potential as an effective treatment and could begin trials very soon.

Conclusion

There have been some amazing advances in lupus research in 2016 and these breakthroughs continue to bring fresh hope for people who suffer from lupus and are not getting effective treatment.

Through the support of great organizations like the Lupus Research Institute, there is no telling what the future of lupus research might hold. With each passing year our ability to treat lupus grows and one day we may even see the development of a cure for this terrible condition.

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