Lupus Research Institute Discoveries Blaze New Paths to Understanding and Treating Lupus

Results Ripple through Field, Transform Research Outlook

In frustration over the glacial pace of discoveries in lupus, families and scientists formed the Lupus Research Institute with the conviction that being open to the most brilliant ideas would finally shake up the field, spur innovation, and generate new understanding of why and how the lupus immune system attacks the body that it should be defending.

Now a professional assessment of the Institute-funded work completed to date reports striking successes for this pioneering approach. In funding ideas that others wouldn’t risk—85 new ideas explored over 3 years each—the LRI has energized and advanced immune system research in lupus. “The speed with which the Institute has changed the outlook for lupus research is remarkable,” said William Paul, MD, Chief, Laboratory of Immunology, NIAID-NIH, and chairman of the Lupus Research Institute’s scientific advisory board.

Several areas of discovery are particularly striking.

Key Discoveries Documented Within Just 7 Years of Launching Bold, Novel Research Strategy

  • Genes that Increase Susceptibility to Lupus
  • How Lupus Damages Organs—Kidneys, Heart, Brain, Skin
  • Pathways that Enable Misguided Antibodies to Attack
  • Molecules that Determine Control of the Immune System
  • Targets for New Treatments
  • 20+ New Biomarkers for Diagnosing, Monitoring & Treating Lupus

Discoveries: Genes that Increase Susceptibility to Lupus

LRI scientists have identified two genes that make lupus-prone mice susceptible to lupus— fresh insight into how the disease develops. Scientists are now examining if the same genes are defective in people with lupus.

Discoveries: How Lupus Damages Organs—Kidneys, Heart, Brain, Skin

Institute-funded researchers have confirmed five novel explanations for how lupus damages vital organs such as the kidneys, brain, and heart. Now there is real hope for strategies to stop the damage.

Discoveries: Pathways that Enable Misguided Antibodies to Attack

Institute-funded investigators have discovered four pathways involved in auto-antibodies—to the body rather than outside invaders—that highlight possible ways to prevent lupus.

Discoveries: Molecules of Immune System Control

Institute-funded scientists have described four molecules that act as critical control points for the immune system. These molecules present drug targets for lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

Discoveries: Targets for New Treatments

The rapid and prolific number of promising results generated by the Institute’s cutting-edge funding model is enticing pharmaceutical companies to explore new drugs for lupus for the first time in decades.

Discoveries: 20+ New Biomarkers for Diagnosing, Monitoring & Treating Lupus

Biomarkers are crucial among other things for monitoring, managing, and determining treatment efficacy in lupus. Six of the more than 20 identified by LRI investigators are now being tested in human tissue and people with lupus. Already confirmed: the biomarker, pro-inflammatory HDL (piHDL), as an abnormal plaque-promoting molecule in the blood that signals early atherosclerosis in people with lupus.

Research Spreads Bright Lights of Discovery

LRI discoveries have appeared in such rigorous and widely read journals as Science, Journal of Immunology, New England Journal of Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Immunity. Sixteen papers were published in the past year alone, and at least 25 more are in the pipeline.

Because of this wealth of findings, scientists flicking on their laboratory lights every morning—hundreds of thousands of immunologists, cardiologists, nephrologists, from Los Angeles to Chicago, New York, and beyond—now have a deeper, more nuanced grasp of where to look for answers in lupus.

“The quality and quantity of these studies, and the high number of times that other scientists cite them,” said Nicholas Chiorazzi, MD,” shows what a dramatic impact the Institute is having on finding solutions to lupus.”