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Jillian Richmond, PhD

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Targeting the CXCR3 Chemokine Axis in Cutaneous Lupus

The study and what it means for patients:
“Some patients with lupus develop a form of the disease that primarily affects the skin – cutaneous lupus. We are trying to determine what attracts harmful immune cells into patients’ skin and whether existing drugs can keep the cells out to prevent damage. These results could lead to clinical trials to test these drugs in patients with cutaneous lupus.”

In patients with lupus, immune cells mistakenly attack the body’s tissues. The skin is their main target in people who have the cutaneous type of the disease. Earlier studies suggested that molecules known as chemokines trigger immune cells to infiltrate the skin, but the source of these molecules wasn’t clear. Using samples from the blisters on participants’ skin, we will identify the specific cells that produce the chemokines. To go one step further and test a possible therapeutic approach, we will then treat mice that develop lupus skin symptoms with several drugs known to inhibit the effects of the chemokines in different ways. Some of these drugs are approved for treating other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Our findings could indicate whether these drugs should be tested in patients with cutaneous lupus and may also enable researchers to develop new drugs that block the chemokines but have fewer side effects.

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