Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed an experimental, nontoxic therapy they claim suppresses Lupus in blood samples of people with the autoimmune disease.
The therapy, detailed in the journal Clinical Immunology, marks a significant step toward one day developing a vaccine-like therapy that could put and keep Lupus in remission without the use of toxic drugs.
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack healthy tissues, causing inflammation, pain, and damage to vital organs. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, about 5 million people have a form of the disease.
Northwestern scientists showed that a nontoxic therapy that uses small pieces of protein known as peptides to generate special regulatory T cells — key cellular warriors in the body's immune system — to block lupus in 30 patients.
"We found that the peptides could not only generate regulatory T cells, but also that they block and reduce autoantibody production to almost baseline levels in the blood cultures from people with active Lupus," said lead researcher Syamal Datta, M.D., a professor of medicine-rheumatology and microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
"This approach shows that the peptides have the potential to work like a vaccine in the human body, to boost the regulatory immune system of those with Lupus, fight autoimmune antibodies, and keep the disease in remission."
The new approach could be important for lupus patients because steroids and Cytoxan — the most common therapies — can have significant toxic side effects, even at low doses.
"This nontoxic therapy works like a vaccine in that the peptides are recognized by the bodies of almost every individual we have seen," Datta said. "It can be given to both subjects with and without lupus and boost their regulatory response with no side effects. We don't have to design something specifically for an unusual person. It works in everybody."
This study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.
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