Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is not something that most people are familiar with. In short, SLE is an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissues in a number of key areas in the body, such as the joints, kidneys and the brain. While SLE is incurable, new research suggests that new treatment might one day be available for those living with this condition.
Aches, Pains and Other Problems
Published in the journal Nature Immunology, this report sought to get a clearer picture regarding possible treatment options for SLE patients. This was done by examining extracted tissue samples from a number of participants.
Lupus is a notoriously difficult disease to diagnose and treat. The reason for this is that the symptoms associated with this disease can be quite different from one person to the next. Modern researchers are still not sure as to what causes the onset of lupus; one possible explanation is that the disease could be passed down from parents to their offspring. Additionally, the appearance of lupus could be related to excessive sun exposure, infections and other environmental factors.
The common symptoms of SLE include fatigue, fever and sunlight sensitivity. Some people might experience both hair and weight loss, as well as feelings of general discomfort and uneasiness. Additional SLE symptoms can include skin rashes, mouth sores, chest pains and swollen lymph nodes.
A Look Inside
Currently, most treatments for lupus involve using immune-suppressing drugs to curtail SLE flareups. Unfortunately, the effect of such medicines is limited, as they can only mitigate the health issues caused by SLE. Furthermore, it can be difficult for doctors to pick the right drugs for treatment.
For this study, the researchers recruited 21 individuals with a history of SLE. This was a diverse group, featuring participants from a variety of racial backgrounds. Women between the ages of 16 and 53 made up the bulk of the subjects. Each volunteer had experienced kidney inflammation due to their condition.
The subjects then underwent kidney biopsies, during which sections of kidney tissue were removed. Using a gene-mapping tool called scRNA-Seq, the authors examined kidney cells from subjects with lupus-induced kidney problems, as well as cells from three women with a clean bill of health. The team found that, among those with SLE, such cells exhibited activity that could lead to kidney scarring.
According to senior study author Jill P. Buyon, the team’s work could significantly alter the way SLE is treated. “If confirmed in further experiments, our findings could personalize lupus therapy based on what an individual patient’s cells are telling us about immune activity.”