Establishing the Role of Apoptosis and mtDNA in the Pathobiology of Lupus
DNA normally remains locked away within cells, and people who don’t have lupus carry little of it in their blood. However, blood levels of DNA are much higher in patients with lupus. One possible source for this DNA is the billions of cells in the body that kill themselves each day. We will test whether dying cells are an important source of blood DNA in lupus by studying mice that lack key proteins that enable cells to commit suicide. We also recently demonstrated that mitochondria, the structures that function as power plants in cells, also release their DNA, which is another potential source. We will test the importance of DNA from mitochondria in the disease by measuring its levels in patients with lupus. We will then ask if patients with more severe lupus carry more mitochondrial DNA. Our studies could enable researchers to design possible lupus treatments to block cell suicide.
What this study means for people with lupus
“The immune system attacks patients’ own DNA in lupus, but researchers haven’t resolved where the large amount of DNA in their blood comes from. We will identify the sources of this DNA by studying mice and blood samples from patients with lupus. Our research could solve one of the long-standing mysteries about lupus and provide important data for studies to identify new drug targets.”