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San Diego Researchers Discover Key Element Of Lupus

LA JOLLA (CNS) - A team from The Scripps Research Institute found that the absence of a certain type of immune cell, or of a key signaling molecule within the cell, could protect against the debilitating auto-immune disease lupus that afflicts millions around the world, it was announced today.

The findings could lead to more-targeted therapies for the disease that causes rashes, joint pain, anemia and kidney damage, TSRI researchers wrote in an online article for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lupus is difficult to diagnose and can lead to fatal blood clots and kidney failure.

None of the current treatments for the illness target its underlying causes, but the findings could make that possible, according to TRSI researchers.

Mice with cells as described by TSRI showed little impairment of their normal immune functions when exposed to lupus.

"We are excited about the potential of such an inhibitor as a new kind of treatment for lupus, as well as other auto-immune conditions,'' said Argyrios Theofilopoulos, chair of TSRI's Department of Immunology and Microbial Science and a senior author of the study.

According to the researchers, lupus could be caused when certain immune cells defend against proteins and nucleic acids mistakenly identified as foreign.

The mice without a relatively sparse type of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells were largely protected from the disease, the institute reported.

Theofilopoulos and his team plan to target a protein called SLC15A4 with medications that could suppress the auto-immune response to lupus without dampening the rest of the immune system. Current lupus drugs often place lupus sufferers at higher risk of infections and cancer.

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