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Overabundance of Immune Cells Might Trigger Lupus
Date:2/14/2008

Study spots overactivity of genes that prevent cell death in those with autoimmune disease

THURSDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers from Saint Louis University report that a pile-up of superfluous immune cells might contribute to lupus, a finding which could point to new therapies for the autoimmune disease.

"We're on the precipice of finding new treatments for lupus," said Dr. Jill Buyon, a professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine. "There are a myriad of targets at different levels of the immune system. What we're seeking are therapies that are targeted that would not cause patients to have overwhelming infection [as side effects]. This paper supports the notion that such therapeutic approaches might be possible."

More than 1.5 million Americans have lupus, a disease in which a hyperactive immune system assaults otherwise healthy organs, such as the kidney, brain, heart, lungs and skin, as well as joints and blood.

The current standard of treatment typically involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anti-malarials and steroids.

Immunosuppressive medications -- such as azathioprine and cyclosporine -- are also used to dampen an immune system gone haywire. However, such regimens, while effective, can provoke severe side effects.

"There hasn't been a drug approved [for lupus] by the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] for 40 years," Buyon said. "This is a time of major discovery, probably one of the most exciting times we'll ever see."

The current study, published in the Feb. 15 issue of Immunity, is a small one involving only 14 patients with lupus and an equal number of healthy controls.

Researchers did a genetic analysis of three different types of white blood cells and found that, in patients with more severe lupus, there was an increase in the activity of genes that normally would prevent the death of a cell, compar
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