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Lupus study highlights importance of B cells

Published on 17 March 2016
Lupus study highlights importance of B cells

A new study has been published that could shed additional light on the factors that come into play for individuals who go on to develop lupus.
Carried out by senior researcher Claudia Mauri, professor of immunology at University College London in the UK, the study showed that some of the body's own anti-inflammatory B cells may be maturing in the wrong way in individuals with lupus - meaning they are actively creating inflammation, rather than fighting it.
These cells play an important part in the body's immune response system, managing the number of antibodies that are produced to fight infection. However, the study showed that in patients diagnosed with lupus, some of these B cells do not function properly and then an over-production of a protein called interferon-alpha can result in the immune system attacking itself.
New treatment approaches
Published in the journal Immunity, the research showed there is now potential for new treatment options on the back of these findings, with current mixed results for the system of administering the drug rituximab.
Until now, patients have seen mixed results from this treatment, with some benefiting greatly, while others have not. However, according to this new research, the reason for this may be the function of two genes that control the production of interferon-alpha within the body. 
As a result, the research has suggested that genetic tests to determine the extent to which these genes are working in patients prior to the start of treatment could lead to an increased likelihood of rituximab delivering its desired results in the future.

Katherine Free, research liaison and communications manager for Arthritis Research UK, said:
"This interesting research, supported by a programme grant from Arthritis Research UK, sheds new light on what goes wrong with the immune system in lupus and why treatments such as rituximab are not effective in all patients. These results may pave the way for new and improved treatment options for this painful and debilitating autoimmune condition.
We know not everyone with arthritis responds to treatment in the same way, and delays in getting effective treatments can cause frustration and increase the possibility of disability. We are currently funding research into stratified medicine, which aims to develop new tests to predict in advance which treatments will work best for which patients, allowing doctors to get the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. This approach has been shown to be beneficial to patients and also leads to cost savings for the NHS.”

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