New research, led by a professor at the University of Iowa, could eventually help treat a chronic autoimmune condition that affects an estimated one-million Americans. Doctor Petar Lenert is the lead author of the research into lupus that is appearing today in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.
Lupus is nine-times more common in women than men and is a rather unpredictable disease that damages a person’s skin, joints and internal organs. Lenert has helped generate D.N.A.-like compounds that have lessened lupus flare-ups in mice.
"It had a profound effect on kidney disease, it could reduce the enlargement of the lymph nodes and the spleen in the animals, and also affected the ability of the immune system to attack (the animal’s) own tissue," Lenert said. When given to mice with lupus, the compounds effectively delayed death. Lenert calls it his biggest breakthrough in nearly 20 years of researching the disease.
"Potentially we are at crossroads of getting a completely new treatment for lupus that would be more disease specific," Lenert said. "If we can translate this research into humans, we may avoid some of the serious side effects of the current treatments." There is no known cure for lupus.
Patients are currently treated in a variety of ways – primarily with anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers or occasionally steroids. Lenert says the D.N.A-like compounds have reduced the activity of various immune cells.
"By having this new weapon, we think (the cells) may act more specifically and may really shut-down the abnormal cells…and therefore, help resolve the ongoing inflammation and tissue damage in lupus," Lenert explained.
A team of researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine assisted Lenert with the study.