The Lupus Research Alliance announces the 2016 recipients of the Dr. William E. Paul Distinguished Innovator Awards in Lupus and Autoimmunity. Boris Reizis, PhD, New York University School of Medicine, is investigating an original theory for what triggers lupus and other autoimmune diseases while Shu Man Fu, MD, PhD, University of Virginia School of Medicine will study a completely new approach to the cause of lupus nephritis. Both extraordinary projects hold tremendous potential for better treatments and a path toward a cure for lupus.
Billions of cells die every day in our blood and release their DNA packaged into small containers called microparticles. Dr. Reizis believes that an abnormal buildup of DNA in these microparticles can cause the immune attack to begin. “We will study how DNA-carrying containers called microparticles form and how the body normally gets rid of this DNA. We also plan to develop techniques that eliminate the abnormal buildup of DNA that happens with lupus to provide a basis for future lupus treatments.
Dr. Fu hypothesizes that the kidney itself can drive kidney disease by releasing molecules such as C1q, a protein that helps activate a part of the immune system. “Our study aims to reveal how these C1q molecules released by kidney cells determine which patients develop kidney failure. We hope to identify whether targeting C1q offers a potential therapy and if measuring the levels of this molecule in the urine can help diagnose severity of kidney damage and monitor response to treatment
Dr. Noelle received an extension of his 2014 Distinguished Innovator Award to advance his work further. In lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks patients’ own cells. His team discovered a molecule called VISTA that serves as an “off” switch for the immune system and thus might provide a way to quell these attacks. They have found that certain mouse proteins termed antibodies flip the VISTA switch and turn down the immune system in mice. Dr. Noelle now wants to take the next step toward using VISTA to treat lupus. “Our group will test whether human antibodies work in mice that carry the human version of VISTA, which will give us a better indication of whether the antibodies will work in lupus patients. We also want to determine how these antibodies affect the immune system.
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