Roopenian, Derry, PhD
Dr. Roopenian and his team have been investigating the role of a new and promising molecular target, interleukin 21 (IL21), in the development of lupus. This protein is typically produced in low levels by CD4 T cells, a type of immune system cell that is important in lupus. In people with lupus, CD4 cells provide too much IL21, overstimulating other immune system cells and leading to the classic manifestations of the disease.
Dr. Roopenian and his team found that interrupting the IL21 signal in lupus-prone mice keeps them from developing the disease. Thus, they plan to use their grant to determine exactly how this works: What role does IL21 play in lupus? What other roles does the protein play in the immune system? Does IL21 operate the same in humans? Overall, their work should provide fundamental information about this pathway that will be critical to the development of any treatments targeting IL21.
What does this study mean for people with lupus? This genetic-based work may help identify a novel treatment pathway for the development of new drugs to prevent and treat lupus.
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