Leading the way to a cure

Lupus Research Update: 2013 Volume 3

Volume 3, 2013 | In This Issue

An Innovative Approach to Lupus Research >
Exploring Drugs Already in Existence >
Predicting and Developing Treatment Pathways For Lupus Nephritis >
Overcoming Personal Pain to Help Others with Lupus >
Two Doctors Receive Awards for Excellence >
Lupus News Corner >

An Innovative Approach to Lupus Research

Every day the inner workings of the human body perform amazing feats thanks in great part to a chemical process called metabolism — by which cells produce substances and energy to sustain all life.

With ALR funding, Laurence Morel, PhD, Professor at the University of Florida, and her team are looking at cellular metabolism of immune cells — specifically T cells — to find genes that may predispose a person to lupus. One of these genes is estrogen receptor related gamma, or Esrrg, which is known to be involved in regulating cellular metabolism.

Dr. Morel’s approach is truly innovative. Not only does her work attempt to understand how mutations in Esrrg make T cells more inflammatory, attack healthy tissue, and promote lupus — Dr. Morel is opening up new ways to treat the disease through metabolic inhibitors.

“The hypothesis behind our investigation is that by treating patients with metabolism inhibitors, we can make the T cells behave more normally and therefore we can reverse the disease symptoms and improve outcomes for people with lupus,” said Dr. Morel.

Since March of this year, Dr. Morel and her team have been treating cells from murine models — and cells in vitro from lupus patients and healthy subjects. “We are employing the use of metabolic inhibitor drugs that have already been approved by the FDA to see if we can normalize the T cells from lupus patients to the same state as our healthy subjects,” added Dr. Morel.

By “repurposing” safe, older inhibitor drugs, Dr. Morel is speeding the process of finding a lowercost, effective treatment for lupus. The application of this work has the potential to radically change the landscape of lupus research — and that’s an exciting idea to Dr. Morel: “There are a lot of drugs out there that would likely be effective in treating lupus — such as cancer therapies — because they share some common pathways. We just have to find the right one!”

While it is too soon to predict if and when Dr. Morel’s investigation will move into a clinical trial phase, the ALR is intrigued by the possibilities that are presented by the repurposing of metabolic inhibitor therapies that have been approved or are already in clinical trials for other diseases. “We’re encouraged by Dr. Morel’s exploration and the strong data that she has already amassed from in vitro testing. We eagerly look forward to the next stage of this exciting work,” said ALR President, Kenneth M. Farber.

Dr. Morel recognizes that the ALR has been a catalyst for her lupus studies. With seed funding from the ALR in 2008, another scientific investigation of Dr. Morel’s was recently recognized by the National Institutes of Health and awarded a much larger five-year grant.

In thanking the ALR, Dr. Morel said: “I’m grateful to the ALR for funding this work. Other groups are not likely to fund such novel ideas — but the ALR maintains a very high scientific threshold... and very focused, innovative research.”

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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