Specific Cellular Interactions Can Be Blocked in Lupus

    (BlackDoctor.org) — Researchers have found a way to reduce disease activity
    in people with lupus nephritis by blocking contact between lymphocytes.

    Lupus
    nephritis is a form of kidney inflammation that can lead to kidney failure. The
    researchers were able to relieve symptoms in some study participants and send
    the lupus nephritis into remission in others who received longer courses of
    treatment. Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, is an
    autoimmune disease in which the B lymphocytes, white blood cells that secrete
    antibodies, are hyperactive and target healthy tissues by mistake.

    The findings, featured on the cover of the November 15 issue of the Journal
    of Clinical Investigation, offer hope that the autoimmune reactions of lupus may
    one day be prevented. The work was conducted by Amrie Grammer, Ph.D., Peter
    Lipsky, M.D., and Gabor Illei, M.D., of the National Institute of Arthritis and
    Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), as well as other researchers at the
    National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other institutions.

    Previous laboratory experiments showed it was possible to interrupt the
    interactions between cells that cause an autoimmune reaction. The investigators
    wanted to find out whether they could reproduce those results in lupus patients.
    They recruited six volunteers with lupus nephritis. These volunteers had
    previously participated in NIAMS clinical trials studying the natural history of
    lupus nephritis with standard treatment. Investigators treated the volunteers
    with an antibody that was created to interfere with cell interactions,
    specifically, interactions between one protein, CD40, and another, CD154. The
    antibody, developed in mice, was humanized; that is, it was designed to mimic
    human antibodies so that the volunteers’ immune systems wouldn’t attack it and
    render it useless.

    To find out if the interactions had been blocked successfully, the
    investigators conducted extensive tests of B lymphocytes in the participants’
    blood before and after treatment. The researchers observed a significant
    decrease in the activity of B lymphocytes and the number of antibody-secreting
    plasma cells, both of which indicate disease activity in lupus, after treatment.
    Also, the volunteers experienced relief of symptoms.

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