Researchers from Bar Ilan University have come up with a new treatment for Lupus. The new, targeted therapy, developed by researchers from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the University of Houston, and the pharmaceutical company Equillium, together with several other academic collaborators, inhibits specific immune cells associated with lupus nephritis, and was effective in improving kidney inflammation in animal models of lupus and lupus nephritis.
If you ever watched the brilliant medical televisions show “House,” then you have certainly heard of Lupus. On that show, Dr. House, played by Hugh Laurie, always says, “it’s never Lupus!” Why? Because he thinks that’s too many doctors suspect Lupus when there are a variety of inexplicable symptoms. Again, why?
The Mayo Clinic explains that Lupus is a disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs (autoimmune disease). Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.
So, a doctor might think Lupus when he sees no other explanation for such problems.
And Lupus can be difficult to diagnose, says the Mayo Clinic, because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus.
Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there’s no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms.
Several medications currently available can effectively treat lupus nephritis, but in patients who don’t respond well to these treatments, the disease can progress to such an extent that the only way to keep them alive is through dialysis or a kidney transplant. Additionally, most of these medications can cause many side effects, including suppression of the immune system and an increased susceptibility to infections.
But the researchers from Bar Ilan say that their new approach could serve as an alternative to current treatments targeting multiple immune cells, and provide a more effective and potentially personalized remedy for lupus nephritis. The development was reported in a study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Many different types of immune cells are involved in the mechanisms underlying target organ damage in lupus and other autoimmune conditions. One of these important cell types is T-cells, which affect the kidney by interacting and binding with other cells, much like a key inserts into a lock.
And this leads to one of Lupus’ problems, kidney inflammation. To prevent this damaging development, the researchers developed an antibody that disrupted the process by blocking the interaction between CD6 and ALCAM, just as glue in a lock would prevent a key from being inserted into it. As a result, T-cells didn’t get activated.
“Up until now, CD6/ALCAM interactions weren’t considered relevant or instrumental in lupus nephritis,” says Prof. Chaim Putterman, of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University (Safed, Israel) and the Albert Einstein School of Medicine (Bronx, NY), who led the study together with senior co-authors Dr. Cherie Ng and Dr. Chandra Mohan. “The intervention we describe, which targets T cells rather than multiple immune cell types, can potentially provide physicians with another effective tool for the treatment of a difficult and challenging disease.”