Lupus study finds abnormal alpha-interferon secretion may lead to better therapies for immune-system disease

DALLAS Nov. 16, 2001 Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research in Dallas have linked abnormal secretion of alpha interferon to the malfunctioning immune systems of young patients with lupus, a disease that can damage kidneys, skin, heart and other organs in children and can be fatal without early treatment.

The finding, published in todays issue of Science, is a major step toward explaining how systemic lupus erythematosus deceives the bodys immune system into destroying healthy cells and could lead to enhanced therapies, said Dr. Virginia Pascual, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and an assistant investigator at the Baylor Immunology Institute.

Dr. Karolina Palucka, an associate investigator at the Baylor Immunology Institute and a researcher on the study, said, The study is the first to identify how the interaction between lymphoid and myeloid dendritic cells which play fundamental roles to initiate immune responses to bacteria, viruses and other invading antigens can go wrong in lupus patients.

Pascual said the normal process appears to be altered in lupus patients as the dendritic cells are hyperactivated by alpha interferon, one of three main classes of specialized protein weapons activated in the bodys otherwise normal war against viruses.

Once that virus-fighting job is done, the interferon normally disappears, but not in lupus patients, she said.

Pascual said blocking the abnormal alpha-interferon secretion could be the key to developing better lupus therapies than the currently prescribed steroids, other anti-inflammatory agents and chemotherapy. More research is needed to test that theory, she said.

For the study, laboratory analyses were run on blood samples taken from 70 7- to 18-year-old lupus patients and a similar number of age-matched children and youth in control groups at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children an

Contact: Worth Wren Jr.
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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