June 24, 2019
Patients with cutaneous lupus develop rashes because immune cells move into the skin and cause inflammation. With a Target Identification in Lupus (TIL) grant from the Lupus Research Alliance, Dr. Jillian Richmond of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and colleagues found what lures the immune cells into the skin of people with cutaneous lupus. Dr. Richmond presented their results at FOCiS 2019, the 19th Annual Meeting of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies in Boston. Her poster received a “Poster of Merit” red ribbon, which means it was ranked in the 10th percent of most important presentations at FOCiS.
Dr. Richmond and her team have been trying to find out why harmful immune cells enter the skin. When they studied mouse models of lupus, they found that the immune cells carry a protein called CXCR3. Skin cells release molecules that arouse CXCR3, spurring the immune cells to burrow into the skin.
To find out if these molecules have the same effect in people, the researchers used a scar-free way to take small skin samples from patients with cutaneous lupus. They found that skin cells in patients produced the same molecules that attract immune cells into the skin in mice.
“We have cutting-edge techniques that are letting us get a better picture of what happens in the skin of lupus patients,” says Dr. Richmond.
She and her colleagues have been testing potential treatments in mouse models that block CXCR3. The new results suggest that these treatments might also work in people and that drugs to block the molecules that attract immune cells might also be helpful.