[November 16, 2006]
DOWNSTATE RESEARCHERS STUDY NEW WAY TO FIGHT LUPUS
A New Molecule May Inhibit Excessive Immune Response
Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have received a grant from the Lupus Research Institute to study whether a new means of manipulating the immune system is an effective treatment against lupus.
"Lupus is a life-threatening disease in which immune cells in the blood that fight infection somehow become abnormal and attack the body, causing tissue damage, especially in the kidney,” says Christopher A. J. Roman, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology.
“We discovered that molecules called TFE3 and TFEB control the ability of immune system cells to manufacture CD40L, a molecule that is critical for fighting infection. In lupus, immune cells make CD40L at the wrong times, and this causes the immune system to behave abnormally. We believe TFE3 and TFEB may be involved in this abnormality and want to know whether lupus could potentially be treated by inactivating TFE3 and TFEB."
In this lupus study, the Downstate researchers are using an inhibitory molecule that can block the binding of the transcription factors TFE3 and TFEB to DNA, which their previous studies showed effectively slows the creation of CD40L. They will test whether this strategy can be used to suppress the body’s immune response when it is not wanted or is inappropriate. This strategy, developed at Downstate, is potentially more specific and more effective than other techniques for inhibiting CD40L.
Inhibiting CD40L shows promise in the treatment of a number of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. In addition to lupus, the treatment may prove useful against rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, allergy, and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in preventing organ transplant rejection.
Ellen M. Ginzler, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and chief of rheumatology at Downstate and an internationally known researcher on lupus, is a key collaborator on this study.
The $300,000 grant was secured with the assistance of the SUNY- Research Foundation. Through its five Technology Transfer Offices, the Research Foundation identifies and protects SUNY intellectual capital, helps faculty market their inventions, and creates partnerships with industry to further research and commercialize SUNY discoveries, innovations and materials for the public good.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center is the only academic medical center in Brooklyn, Queens, or Staten Island, comprised of a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, and the 374-bed University Hospital of Brooklyn.