January 8. NEW YORK. The path to safe and effective treatments and a cure for lupus lies in bold, pioneering research. The Lupus Research Institute's Novel Research Grants, the proven platform for innovation, make discovery and scientific progress in lupus possible.
"This year's novel research projects tackle what causes lupus and introduce new approaches to better treat and even prevent this complex disease," said Lupus Research Institute President and CEO Margaret Dowd. "LRI's Novel Research Grant program gives scientists the ability to ask entirely new questions, providing a precious launch pad for scientific creativity. The dynamic of integrated innovation across the full range of novel research continues to produce the most pivotal discoveries in lupus."
The link between bacteria and lupus
The average person houses ten times more bacteria than human cells; yet the relationship between bacteria and disease has too often been overlooked. Now, two pioneering LRI-Novel Research studies will examine the link between these tiny organisms and autoimmune disease.
- Dr. Stefania Gallucci, Temple University, asks if bacterial infections can cause lupus and trigger flares. She foresees the ability to then develop new treatments and even prevent the disease.
- Dr. Vikki Abrahams from Yale posits that bacterial infections may worsen dangerous complications such as miscarriage among pregnant women with the blood-clotting disorder antiphospholipid syndrome (APS).
Bringing immunotherapy from cancer to lupus
A critically important new direction borrows insights from cancer research to understand how the immune system works, how it tolerates normal cell tissues and responds to foreignness. These insights have led to new, revolutionary treatments and even cures for some cancers, and by applying this understanding we may do the same for lupus. Timothy Niewold, MD (Mayo Clinic) is exploring if we can manipulate the body's own immune system – its natural ability to suppress specialized immune cells – to create a new treatment for lupus.
Using the body's building blocks – DNA – to improve our understanding of lupus
DNA, and the genes that comprise it, are the blueprint for the human body. The study of genetics is now a game changer across all fields of biomedical research, including lupus.
Using cutting-edge technology, four 2016 grants use novel insights in genetic research to ask and answer critical questions about lupus that lay the necessary foundations for new treatments:
- Is having two X chromosomes, perhaps not just sex hormones, the reason women are more susceptible to lupus? Hal Scofield, MD (University of Oklahoma)
- How do pesticides and chemical exposures influence lupus severity? Lindsey Ann Criswell MD, MPH (University of California, San Francisco)
- Can an interactive website using the power of Big Data define the genetic links to lupus? Matthew T. Weirauch, PhD (Children's Hospital Medical Center – Research Foundation)
- How does a specific gene (Ets1) increase patients' production of autoantibodies? Lee Ann Garrett-Sinha, PhD (University at Buffalo)
Innovative basic research leads straight to the clinic – bringing cutting-edge treatments along with it
Building on new insights into the disease, five 2016 grant recipients aim to develop new, effective treatments to fight lupus with studies that ask:
- Can improving existing therapies that destroy B cells provide an effective new treatment for lupus? Hui-Chen Hsu, PhD (University of Alabama at Birmingham)
- Could a current ineffective lupus treatment (BAFF) be refocused to create a new and improved therapy? Julio A. Camarero, PhD (University of Southern California)
- Can blocking a key enzyme PLK1 reduce inflammation and disease severity? Tianfu Wu, PhD (University of Houston)
- Can a new monoclonal antibody stop autoantibody production? Laura Mandik-Nayak, PhD (Lankenau Institute for Medical Research)
- Are lupus flares caused by the body's inability to get rid of dead cells and can we figure out how to repair this disposal mechanism by comparing patients with mild and severe lupus? Barbara J. Vilen, PhD (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)