Scientific discovery may lead to a treatment for lupus

When there is an excessive number or hyperactivation of immune cells, very high levels of proteins known as cytokines are released, resulting in a cytokine storm that causes severe and often irreversible tissue damage. This accounts for the crippling nature of many autoimmune disorders such as lupus.

Now, an international team of scientists has uncovered the structure of a regulatory complex that is involved in both metabolism and the release of cytokines by the immune system. It is hoped that the finding will be used to develop an effective treatment for lupus.

The researchers were initially exploring a family of proteins called BRCA, which have been implicated in breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancers. BRCA proteins are tasked with the repair of damaged DNA in these cells. In order to achieve this, they interact with a complex of molecules called BRISC.

The researchers soon realized that this repair sequence shares similarities with the pathway of immune signaling regulation, and both involve some common players.

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