Many patients suffering from autoimmune diseases are treated with steroids, a class of immunosuppressive drugs that delay the development and progression of autoimmune diseases by suppressing the patient's immune system. However, suppressing the immune system increases a patient's risk for infections and other side effects.
In the past 50 years, only one drug has been approved for the treatment of lupus. Mohan said the fact that the new drug he is researching targets B cells selectively is an exciting step forward in the treatment of lupus.
"The idea is that the more selective the drug is in targeting the causes of lupus, the fewer side effects there will be," he said.
Although the drug primarily targets B cells, that does not necessarily mean that the drug doesn't suppress the immune system. If Mohan and his collaborators find that the drug is effective in mouse models of various autoimmune diseases, the next step will be to test whether, and how much, it suppresses the immune system.
The hope, Mohan said, is that even if this new drug is found to be immunosuppressive, it may carry fewer side effects than steroids, and therefore could be an alternative for lupus patients.
Mohan said he remains cautiously optimistic about what the future holds for the treatment of lupus and other autoimmune diseases, explaining that his research is "only the tip of the iceberg" in terms of introducing new targeted therapies for the treatment of these diseases.
"One of the things that is happening in the study of autoimmune diseases is the concerted effort to subset patients into different groups, as there are many different kinds of lupus," said Mohan, who works in UH's Cullen College of Engineering. "The idea is that if we can subset lupus patients according to the specific phenotypes they manifest
|Contact: Jeannie Kever|
University of Houston