Erythroid mitochondrial dysfunction in lupus pathogenesis
There is some evidence that defects in mitochondria—the “powerhouse” of every cell—may be involved in the development of lupus. While examining how this happens, Dr. Caielli found a population of red blood cells in some lupus patients that have mitochondria in them—which was very strange, since mature red blood cells don’t usually have anything in them besides hemoglobin! Moreover, he showed that these red blood cells can induce the inflammation that is so problematic in people with lupus and other immune disorders. He was able to generate more of these cells in the lab and hopes to use them to figure out if they correlate with more severe disease activity and progression.
What this study means for people with lupus
With his funding from the Lupus Research Alliance, Dr. Caielli aims to identify the underlying causes of lupus by examining how the defective, mitochondria-containing red blood cells he has found in lupus patients induce inflammation. Only by first understanding the root causes of the rogue inflammation that is so damaging to those with lupus and other immune disorders can we hope to devise effective treatments.