Leading the way to a cure


Therapeutic Approaches that Enhance Apoptotic Clearance

Silverman, Gregg, MD

University of California, San Diego

Throughout our lives, our bodies are continually being repaired, because there is a need to replace cells that die by a natural process called programmed cell death or apoptosis. Therefore, mechanisms are necessary to completely and efficiently remove the over 10 billion cells that die in our bodies each day, even when we are healthy. However, this process, called apoptotic clearance, is impaired in many patients with lupus. As a result, some dead cells linger on and are believed to cause inflammatory responses that damage the body. This prompts the release of autoantigens that induce autoimmune responses, leading to the development of lupus. Working with mice prone to lupus, Dr. Silverman and his colleagues have discovered that apoptotic clearance can be greatly enhanced by treating the mice with a type of antibody specific for apoptotic cells. The treatment also greatly improves the survival of these mice. Their research will define the molecular and cellular pathways of this type of antibody. Further, they will explore how to best use such agents to block disease-associated autoimmune responses and inflammation, such as those that occur in people with lupus. 

What this study means for people with lupus: This research will provide a scientific foundation for the development of new drugs for lupus and related inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Such antibody-based treatments should provide improved clinical benefits without the adverse effects associated with current lupus treatments, such as general immunosuppresion that increases your risk of infection, toxicity to your organs, or potential damage to the fertility of young women.

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