August 21, 2019
Critical research supported by the Lupus Research Alliance has led to an exciting research collaboration between the funded scientist Dr. Christian Lood, University of Washington where he is an Assistant Professor, and the company Exagen Inc..
Dr. Lood’s Novel Research Grant from the LRA focuses on one of our main immune cells, the neutrophils, and their contribution to inflammation in people with lupus. Neutrophils, upon activation, explode and throw out their power plants, structures in cells called mitochondria and their DNA into the bloodstream, triggering marked inflammation. In healthy individuals, there are mechanisms in place to clean up these exploded power plants, but this process is defective in lupus patients.
Dr. Lood’s results show that patients with lupus have more mitochondrial DNA in their blood than people who do not have the disease. He also found that people with active lupus carry more mitochondrial DNA than those with less active disease, suggesting that testing for this type of DNA could distinguish these groups of patients. Understanding how to “clean up” the mitochondrial DNA in the blood can bring insight into how to reduce inflammation.
“We are now working on understanding how the released mitochondria contribute to inflammation and organ damage, to develop new drugs to treat patients with lupus. We are also looking into the capacity of mitochondrial biomarkers to predict the future, allowing for early interventions, reducing the overall disease burden in patients with lupus. These studies would not have been possible had it not been for the generous support from the Lupus Research Alliance.”
Exagen Inc. is furthering Dr. Lood’s research. They will together study if markers of neutrophil explosions can help diagnose and anticipate the course of disease in lupus patients. The goal is to be able to identify patients with lupus as early as possible, as well as determine their disease projection, to allow for a personalized treatment strategy, reducing the risk of severe complications, and improving on quality of life.
Exagen Inc. focuses on the development of effective tools to diagnose and monitor lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, both autoimmune diseases.