Leading the way to a cure

Lupus Research Update: 2010 Volume 2

Volume 2, 2010 - Online Edition | In This Issue

The Next Phase in Advancing Genetic Science >
Brilliant Minds Search for Answers >
Uncovering New Paths to Treatment for Lupus Nephritis >
Faces of Lupus: A Volunteer Who has it All >
Lupus Experts Convene at International Congress >
Lupus News Corner >

Uncovering New Paths to Treatment for Lupus Nephritis

Lupus nephritis can be deceptive, destructive, and one of the most serious complications that a person with Lupus nephritis may have to face. That is why the ALR has been funding this aspect of lupus research in a major way since our inception 10 years ago.

For some, lupus nephritis may cause weight gain, high blood pressure or swelling around the eyes, legs, ankles, or fingers. Others may experience no overt symptoms of kidney disease. Blood and urine testing is the only way to accurately diagnose lupus nephritis. The impact of this disease is widespread — to some extent affecting most patients with systemic lupus erythematus (SLE). Effective treatments do exist, but the need for additional therapies is urgent.

As one of ALR’s grantees, Harini Bagavant, Ph.D., University of Virginia, Charlottesville, has been developing a novel and very promising approach to treating lupus nephritis. Dr. Bagavant is attempting to precisely deliver treatment to a type of cell — glomerular mesangial — that contributes to kidney damage. Glomerular cells respond to invading immune cells by causing additional damage to the kidneys and furthering the slide towards nephritis.

Dr. Bagavant and her team are developing a tiny and specialized delivery system that will, first, avoid detection by the immune system, and second, precisely deliver drugs to the glomerulus and the glomerulus cells alone. This approach has the potential to be more efficient — and have fewer side effects — than more broadly based treatments.

The units of the delivery system are called immuoliposomes, and the idea is to fill them with therapeutic agents, inject them into the circulatory system, and study their approach to the glomerulus. Dr. Bagavant is testing several drugs, each designed to block specific molecules in the glomerulus cells.

Dr. Bagavant’s work is one of several investigations in the ALR’s current portfolio that is attempting to open pathways to a potentially vast array of treatments for lupus nephritis. 

Lupus nephritis is an inflammation of the kidney that is caused by systemic lupus erythematosus.

1.5 million

people in the U.S. have Lupus.

172 million

dollars committed to lupus research by the Lupus Research Alliance.

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