The kidneys of patients living with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are often under assault, and not all those living with the disease will respond to standard treatment. A new report published in the journal Nature Immunology online May 20 shows how tissue samples from these patients can accurately predict those more likely than not to respond to therapy. SLE is a disease marked by the attack on joints, skin, and kidneys by the body's immune system.
"Our latest research redefines how a kidney biopsy can be used to tailor drug therapy in lupus patients," says study co-senior investigator Jill Buyon, MD, the Sir Deryck and Lady Va Maughan Professor of Rheumatology at NYU School of Medicine. "Moreover, our results point to simple skin biopsy as a potential tool to track the progression of kidney damage from the disease and to tell whether treatments are working as intended or need to be changed."
Researchers say treating lupus, which afflicts an estimated 1 million Americans, predominantly women, is difficult because its onset, symptoms, and progression vary significantly from patient to patient over time. The disorder's origins remain unknown, although many suspect that genetic factors passed down from parents to their children as well as environmental triggers, such as sun exposure and infection, are likely responsible.
For the new study, researchers analyzed the cellular profile and genetic activity of kidney and skin tissue samples from 21 SLE patients in the New York area. Most were women between the ages of 16 and 53, and of all races. Study participants were at the time of biopsy also among the half of all SLE patients who experience lupus nephritis, a form of kidney inflammation that can cause lasting damage to the organ.
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