Leading the way to a cure


Novel Mechanisms of Premature Atherosclerosis in Lupus

Kaplan, Mariana, MD

University of Michigan

The risk of cardiovascular complications due to premature atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is as much as 50 times higher in young women with SLE than in the general population. Conventional risk factors for heart disease do not account for this increased tendency. Instead, immune alterations characteristic of lupus appear to be responsible for the high rate of heart disease. Dr. Kaplan and her coworkers have found that lupus patients have increased death of the cells that line the interior of blood vessels, called endothelial cells, and that this increased cell death correlates with abnormal blood vessel function. However, they do not know what is killing these cells and whether the body can replace the dying cells with new endothelial cells in an efficient way. The main goal of this research project is to study the mechanisms by which endothelial cells are dying at an accelerated pace in lupus by looking at the role of different pathways and cells of the immune system in killing these cells. Dr. Kaplan also plans to test whether certain drugs or other treatment approaches might prevent accelerated endothelial cell death in lupus.

What this study means for people with lupus: The results of this research may provide important insights into what causes accelerated cardiovascular disease in lupus. They may also show whether specific therapeutic interventions can be designed to prevent this potentially fatal condition in people with the disease.

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