New studies may have found the “drive” behind Lupus

by | Oct 8, 2012 | Health

Recent medical studies of great interest to Skokie Neurology clinics indicate that researchers may have determined what bodily mechanism causes attacks on cells and tissue in cases of patients with the autoimmune disease known as lupus.  Two studies in recently published medical journals pointed to a cycle of chronic inflammation and cell death that involve blood cells called neutrophils as a key factor in lupus. These cells are versatile immune system warriors that work at the site of infections to destroy foreign bodies. The studies were published during the time when the Federal Drug Administration was expected to announce its decision on the new biologic drug, Benlysta. This new medication was being considered the first FDA approved treatment for lupus in almost 50 years.

The study is focused on the underlying causes of body-wide attacks.  Lupus affects different parts of the body such as joints, skin, cardio-pulmonary systems, kidneys and the blood, making it very difficult to have proper diagnosis. The lupus-infested body of the patient produces antibodies to their own DNA that are known as ANA’s or anti-nuclear antibodies.  Skokie Neurology and other health care providers conduct blood tests for these antibodies that are often used as an initial diagnosis step. For years, researchers wondered why this happened as DNA was thought to be protected from attacks.  In 2004 it was discovered that neutrophils can explode and disperse strings of cellular material that contains bits of nuclear DAN and proteins in web like formations that trap harmful viruses, bacteria or fungi. These bits of cellular material are known as neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs).

In the case of healthy individuals, these NETs generally degrade quickly without causing problems; but for those patients suffering with lupus, antimicrobial proteins called LL37 and HNP tend to be present that prevent these bits of extracellular debris from being broken down.  When these proteins and NETs combine, a different type of immune cell is triggered known as a plasmacytoid dendritic cell that generates proteins which, in turn, increase immune response.  This chain reaction leads to the vicious cycle of the protein production, neutrophil death and the increase of antibodies in a very efficient pathogenic loop that amplifies the problem. Continuous testing and experiments are being done to better identify these protein and nuclear markers so that doctors are better able to diagnose the disease in a quicker and more efficient way other than the present method of relying on a set of criteria that overlaps with so many other diseases.  Hopefully all the testing and continuous experiments will eventually lead to better diagnostic methods for Neurology professionals and experts, and possibly give rise to new medications and therapies for patients who suffer with severe lupus.

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