Although it appears as an unpleasant but generally tame condition, the butterfly-like facial rash for which it’s known is not the end-all of Lupus. Due to the nature of the autoimmune disease, it can fatally damage important organs and systems, kidney malfunction being the leading cause of Lupus-associated morbidity.

And even though clinical trials have proven the efficacy of combined corticosteroids with intravenous cyclophosphamide as immunosuppressive therapy, the treatment can be damaging. This resulted in the ongoing research of new therapies, just as effective, but with less severe side-effects.

FindMeCure would like to use Lupus Awareness Day to focus on the positive – the new therapies being developed as well as the still distant but increasingly more palpable hope for a cure.

Priorities of current research

The American Lupus Foundation is focused on funding research into shortening diagnosis time and developing safe therapies that allow for the patients to preserve their quality of life.

LFA-REAL[1] is one example of The Foundation’s policy. It’s an assessment tool, the first of its kind for lupus, designed to evaluate the development of the disease as well as to determine the effect of the treatment. One possible use of this measurement system is the assessment of new drugs and therapies in clinical trials, which can dramatically speed up the process of developing improved treatments. It can also reduce unnecessary interventions and thus, the cost of treatment itself.

LFA also supports stem cells research. Avoiding the ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cells, current lupus research focuses on mesenchymal stem cells – stem cells found in mature tissue which the body resolves to when old cells die a natural death. These cells are usually derived from bone marrow and because of their anti-inflammatory nature and their lack of properties that can trigger the immune system to recognize them as foreign, they show a lot of promise in autoimmune diseases research.

Early clinical studies of MSCs in lupus show astonishing results with up to 75% of participants responding well to treatment – a number higher than that of lupus patients’ response to current treatments. However, there was no control group in these trials and more research is needed to ensure the MSCs therapy is in fact an improvement on standard therapies.

The possibility of a cure

The Lupus Research Institute awarded a grant to University of Florida researchers who study lupus in depth with focus on MSCs. However, their findings are not explicitly related to MSCs treatment – the discovered that lupus can be treated in mice with the artificial inhibition of the metabolic pathways of certain immune cells[2].

What surprised researchers was that the combination of two metabolic inhibitors was the key to reversing the disease, even though based on the information they previously had either one of two alone could do the same job. The drugs used in the study are metformin, used for the treatment of type-2 diabetes, and 2DG – still under investigation.

These findings can clear the path for further research on metabolic pathways as well. As for clinical trials in humans, they are on the agenda for the near future as it’s important to assess whether the combination of the two drugs can be applied as treatment alongside more conventional therapies.

Article by Nelly Katsarova

 

[1] https://www.lupus.org/research/lfa-real

[2] https://www.achieveclinical.com/news/cure-lupus-coming-soon/

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