November 12, 2013
Non-Toxic Therapy For Lupus Successfully Tested On Patients
Rebekah Eliason for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Scientists from Northwestern Medicine have brought new hope to patients with lupus. A new nontoxic therapy that suppresses lupus in blood samples was designed and successfully tested on patients with the autoimmune disease.
Lupus is a debilitating autoimmune disease where the body creates auto-antibodies that attack its own healthy tissue. This causes severe pain, inflammation and destruction to many vital organs in the body. The Lupus Foundation of America has estimated that some form of the disease affects 5 million people throughout the world.
Previous studies at Northwestern have showed that a nontoxic therapy using small pieces of proteins known as peptides can block lupus in mice prone to contracting the disease. The peptides produce special regulatory T cells that are vital to suppressing the disease.
This new study was comprised of 30 lupus patients, ten of whom were active and twenty who were in remission, along with fifteen healthy patients. Each person had a blood sample cultured with low doses of the peptide.
Senior study author Syamal Datta, professor of medicine-rheumatology and microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said, “We found that the peptides could not only generate regulatory T cells, but also that they block and reduce autoantibody production to almost baseline levels in the blood cultures from people with active Lupus.”
“This approach shows that the peptides have the potential to work like a vaccine in the human body, to boost the regulatory immune system of those with Lupus, fight autoimmune antibodies and keep the disease in remission,” Datta added.
The most common therapies used to treat lupus are steroids and cytoxan which carry harmful side effects even when used in very small doses. Similar to chemotherapy, drugs used to treat lupus can cause infertility and weaken the immune system, which means patients often cannot have children and are highly susceptible to infections. The drugs are harmful enough that they cannot be given to a patient indefinitely.
“This nontoxic therapy works like a vaccine in that the peptides are recognized by the bodies of almost every individual we have seen,” Datta said. “It can be given to both subjects with and without lupus and boost their regulatory response with no side effects. We don’t have to design something specifically for an unusual person. It works in everybody.”
This study is linked to the previous 27 years of Datta’s research regarding the cloning of T cells that are responsible for lupus autoimmunity. The peptides used in this study were identified by Datta’s team in 1996, and although Northwestern holds the intellectual rights to this patented discovery, they have published the results to allow open access for anyone to move further with this research.
“It is our hope that the next step is a phase one clinical trial in humans to show the efficacy of the peptide therapy in patients with lupus,” Datta said. “The key is to find an industry partner that has experience in these kind of therapies so that we can move forward.”
The study was published online in Clinical Immunology, the journal of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies.