As reported by University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), research partly funded by the LRI identified a mechanism that can lead to lupus. The UAB team found that as billions of cells naturally die off every day, an autoimmune response can be triggered when macrophages do not keep the dying cells called apoptotic cells or ACs from entering the follicles of the spleen. Macrophages are a type of white blood cell that engulfs and digests foreign bodies. In a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, UAB investigators show how macrophages near the spleen can become too stiff to work properly, failing to prevent the dying cells from entering the follicles. Autoimmune antibodies form to attack the foreign bodies.
In an accompanying commentary in JCI, Drs. Claudia Mauri and Madhvi Menon, University College London write that, “The results of this study provide important insight into factors that inhibit AC clearance and promote the development of systemic lupus erythematosus.”