Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus), an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own tissues, can affect many organs. About half of patients diagnosed with lupus develop lupus nephritis, which can destroy their kidneys.
Not all lupus nephritis responds well to currently available medications. Even when it does, the drugs can cause serious side effects.
A new targeted therapy that inhibits specific immune cells associated with lupus nephritis proved effective in improving kidney inflammation in animal models of lupus and lupus nephritis.
This approach could provide a more effective and potentially personalized remedy for lupus nephritis, said the co-lead of the multinational research team, Prof. Chaim Putterman of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University (Safed, Israel) and the Albert Einstein School of Medicine (Bronx, NY).
The therapy targets immune system T-cells, which interact and bind with other cells like a key fits a lock. T-cells expressing CD6 (the lock) bind with a molecule ALCAM (the key), leading to kidney inflammation.
The researchers developed an antibody that blocks the interaction between CD6 and ALCAM. When this pathway was blocked in animal models, the researchers observed significant improvement in kidney inflammation.
In a separate experiment, the researchers detected elevated levels of ALCAM in urine samples of lupus nephritis patients. Such patients could be the best candidates for the new antibody therapy. Ongoing clinical trials will determine whether the findings lead to therapeutic benefit for humans.
The study was the cover story in the January 4 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, written by researchers from Israel’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University, New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the University of Houston, and US-based pharmaceutical company Equillium, with several other academic collaborators.