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Discovery could pave way for effective long-term lupus treatment: Study

Australian researchers have figured out how to fix a defect that causes lupus which could provide effective long-term treatment

The new treatment involves taking blood cells from the lupus patient, and modifying them in the lab to restore this protective effect.(Pexels)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 07.02.2024  |  04:41 PM IST

Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, can significantly reduce people's quality of life and daily functioning. In the last few decades, researchers have been working on improving its diagnosis and treatment. Now, a new study shows that Australian researchers have figured out how to fix a defect that causes lupus which could provide effective long-term treatment.

The study, published by researchers from Monash University, has found a way to reprogram the defective cells of lupus patients with protective molecules from healthy people. A first in the world, the new treatment could be the protective side of the immune system that prevents it from attacking its own tissues and organs, the university’s press statement revealed.

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Generally, people have proteins that the immune system could attack, but this doesn't happen in healthy people because of called 'regulatory T cells' or 'T-regs' that protect from autoimmune disease. However, people who have lupus or other autoimmune conditions lack ‘T-regs’. Hence, for the study, researchers identified specific protective molecules from healthy people and reprogrammed ineffective lupus patient T-regs to restore their ability to prevent unwanted immune responses, the statement explained.

The new treatment involves taking blood cells from the lupus patient, modifying them in the lab to restore this protective effect, and putting them back into the patient’s body. The findings were published in Nature Communications.

"We were able to completely arrest the development of lupus kidney disease, without the use of the usual non-specific and harmful immunosuppressant drugs. It's like a reset of the abnormal immune system back to a healthy state -- kind of like a major software upgrade. That it uses the patient's own cells is a very special part of this," co-senior author Joshua Ooi said in the statement.

The researchers showed the effectiveness of this treatment using human lupus patient cells, in the test tube and an experimental model of lupus kidney inflammation. Co-senior author Eric Morand said the effectiveness of the treatment was “profound" and that this could be a “game-changer."

"The ability to target, specifically, the disease-causing immune defect, without the need to suppress the entire immune system, is a game-changer," he said in the statement.

The researchers hope that this new treatment could also be developed for other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

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Researchers have been constantly exploring different treatments for lupus. For instance, a September 2023 study, published in JCI Insight, suggests that ginger supplements could help in treating autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

Also read: How ginger supplements could help treat autoimmune diseases