Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system attacks cells and organs through antibodies. This autoimmune attack on the body and its organs can cause rashes, arthritis, renal disease, anemia, and nervous system dysfunctions like spatial memory impairment. Anti-DNA antibodies are a hallmark of SLE.
Research conducted by scientists from the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and Stony Brook University in mice observed that an antibody found in patients that binds both DNA and a receptor on excitatory neurons in the brain will modulate the activation of the receptor. Their studies suggest that existing pharmacologic inhibitors of the receptor may improve the cognitive function of the mice. Feinstein Institutes researchers Betty Diamond, MD, Patricio Huerta, PhD, Bruce Volpe, MD, are co-authors on the paper.
“We were able to identify the specific receptors and interactions that lead to cognitive decline in patients living with lupus,” said Dr. Diamond, director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Feinstein. “This opens up new avenues of therapeutics to target the body’s immune system response and shut down harmful behavior.”
These studies were performed in a mouse model of neuropsychiatric SLE. Subsequent studies will address whether existing pharmacologic inhibitors of the receptor can improve cognitive function in this model. If so, it will be possible to consider clinical trials in patients.
“Dr. Diamond and her team are leaders in the cognitive and neurological problems of complex autoimmune disorders,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes. “These new findings are an important step in the pursuit of developing new experimental therapies for lupus.”
About the Feinstein Institutes
The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest health care provider and private employer in New York State. Home to 50 research labs, 2,500 clinical research studies and 5,000 researchers and staff, the Feinstein Institutes raises the standard of medical innovation through its five institutes of behavioral science, bioelectronic medicine, cancer, health innovations and outcomes, and molecular medicine. We make breakthroughs in genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and are the global scientific leader in bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we produce knowledge to cure disease, visit feinstein.northwell.edu.