Potential cause for lupus is discovered
A particular protein could be a cause for the adverse reaction of the immune system in people with lupus, says research published in Nature Immunology.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to lose the ability to differentiate between healthy tissue and foreign agents. It becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation and damage to joints, skin and internal organs.
Experts have already found that a variation in a gene known as PRDM1 is a risk factor for lupus. PRDM1 allows the production of a protein called Blimp-1.
A research team decided to look at how Blimp-1 regulates the immune system.
They found that women with reduced production of Blimp-1 caused an increase in CTSS, which is a protein that helps the immune system see microorganisms that cause disease. This resulted in an immune system that attacked healthy cells. Male animals with the reduced production of Blimp-1 showed no change in their immune system. More work is needed to confirm that the risk gene PRDM1 could lead to a hyperactive immune system in human females but this discovery may lead to potential new treatments for lupus.
“A healthy immune system is able to identify organisms that are not normally in the body and activate cells like T-Cells to attack them,” explains Prof Betty Diamond, who led the work. “In the case of patients with an autoimmune disease like lupus, the immune system has started to identify healthy cells as something to target. Our study found that a low level of or no Blimp-1 protein in a particular cell type led to an increase in the protein CTSS which caused the immune system to identify healthy cells as something to attack, particularly in females.”
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