DNA graphic

Nan Yan, PhD

Associate Professor

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Immunology | Microbiology


Mammalian free glycan, glycocalyx and anti-glycan antibody in lupus

The study and what it means for patients:
“Our cells carry carbohydrates that usually enable the immune system to recognize the cells as harmless. Our study is testing whether immune cells in patients with lupus mistake the carbohydrates on our cells for those of harmful microbes and launch attacks. Our findings could identify better ways to diagnose lupus and suggest potential treatments that stop the immune system from targeting the carbohydrates.”

Bacteria and other microbes contain carbohydrates called glycans that allow the immune system to correctly identify them as enemies. All our own cells also carry glycans, which sometimes activate immune responses and may lead to chronic diseases such as lupus. We previously found that cells from patients with lupus show above-normal amounts of glycans. Moreover, blood from mice with lupus contains increased levels of the immune system proteins known as antibodies that target the glycans. Our new study will attempt to discover whether glycans from our cells and antibodies against them play a key role in lupus. We will determine the structure of glycans in the blood of patients with lupus and explain how they stimulate immune responses. To investigate potential new ways of diagnosing the disease, we will also determine which glycans make up the coating that is found on the surface of cells from patients with lupus and how are they different from healthy individuals. We also want to figure out which glycans the antibodies in patients’ blood target. Our studies may help researchers better understand glycans’ involvement in lupus and suggest potential new therapies for preventing these molecules from stimulating the immune system in the disease.

Learn and connect with our community!