Leading the way to a cure


Target Identification in SLE Using CyTOF and Multiplexed Assays

Utz, Paul, MD

Stanford University

A hallmark of lupus is the production of autoantibodies that recognize “self” molecules when they should only respond to foreign molecules. Studies by Dr. Utz’ lab and other investigators have identified important roles for 2 classes of molecules in lupus: inflammatory interferons and ctyokines, which are proteins that immune cells release to fight off infections and which damage organs like the kidney; and toll-like receptors (TLRs), which appear to control the development and severity of SLE.

With their grant, Dr. Utz and his team will identify ways to tell which autoantibodies are most active in which patients. They will do this thanks to two cutting-edge technology platforms developed in Stanford labs. The first involves printing thousands of biomolecules onto glass slides, which provides a huge amount of data in just a few hours, and then correlating the presence of autoantigen complexes with a “biosignature” related to the individual patient’s disease. 

The second technology uses a new methodology called CyTOF, which analyzes patient blood cells to study their defects and responses to potential therapies such as rituximab (Rituxan) and belimumab (Benlysta).

They will also explore whether defects in the way these proteins communicate and interact with each other could also be useful biomarkers and/or novel targets for drugs. 

What this study means for people with lupus: Ultimately, these techniques could become the mainstay of all clinical trials in SLE, improving our ability to demonstrate effectiveness and ushering in an entirely new era of patient-specific, customized therapies, or personalized medicine.

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