August 6, 2020
Christian Lood, PhD, at the University of Washington, has developed a new method to assess lupus disease severity. It relies on measuring immune complexes, which are the substances that form when antibodies recognize and attach to a particular target in the body. In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases, these immune complexes can cause inflammation and organ damage. Although immune complexes are known to cause disease progression, they are not specifically measured when assessing lupus patients–mainly because until now, there has been no reliable way to detect and quantify them. This groundbreaking work was partially funded with a grant from the Lupus Research Alliance.
In 2017, Dr. Lood identified a molecule called FcγRIIA that binds to the immune complexes that are harmful in lupus patients.. In his latest study, he aimed to see if isolating immune complexes using this molecule could be used to measure the levels of harmful immune complexes in people with lupus and if those levels would indicate disease severity.
He took blood samples from 92 SLE patients both when they had high disease activity and when they had low disease activity. He compared these samples to blood taken from 100 people without lupus. Using his new method, he found that SLE patients did in fact have higher levels of immune complexes than the healthy control subjects, and that these levels went up when these people had high disease activity such as symptoms of rash, ulcers, arthritis. This method was much more sensitive than any existing test used to detect markers of SLE disease activity.
Dr. Lood is now doing more experiments to see if this potential test can predict disease progression and organ damage in SLE. His goal is to one day identify those patients who might benefit from specific treatment options using this test.