HOUSTON, May 5, 2014 In the U.S. alone, more than 1.5 million people have lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system turns against itself, attacking a person's healthy tissue, cells and organs. The symptoms can range from debilitating pain and fatigue to organ failure.
One of the most common organs to be attacked by lupus is the kidney, manifesting in lupus nephritis. An estimated 40 percent of lupus patients develop this condition, which causes inflammation of the kidneys, impairing their ability to get rid of waste products and other toxins from the body effectively. Lupus nephritis is the leading cause of lupus-related deaths and results in tens of thousands of hospitalizations per year.
Dr. Chandra Mohan, a biomedical engineer at the University of Houston (UH), has a theory about the development of lupus nephritis and, if he's right, there may already be a treatment. Mohan was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR), the world's largest funder of lupus research, to study whether the interaction of three specific molecules is the cause of lupus nephritis. Through this grant, Mohan aims to understand to what extent this molecular pathway is activated in lupus and whether it can be therapeutically targeted using specific drugs.
"Currently, management of lupus involves the use of nonspecific drugs, such as steroids, that suppress the immune system. Our lab, however, is trying to find out the exact molecular mechanisms that lead to lupus," Mohan said. "These mechanisms belong to two classes. On the one hand, you have molecules and pathways that activate the immune system to attack your own body cells. The second set of molecules focus on the kidneys once the immune system is activated by lupus. Our present research and grant focuses on this second molecular cascade, and we want to see whether we can target the kidneys to offer therapeutics that lessen the chance of a patient
|Contact: Lisa Merkl|
University of Houston