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Scientists say they’ve found root cause of lupus, possible cure

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Scientists believe they have figured out a root cause of lupus and they might be able to reverse it. Up until now, no one knew what caused lupus, but researchers from Northwestern Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital said they may have uncovered one specific cause of the disease.

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Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and pain throughout the body. While anyone can get lupus, it’s more common in women. About 9 out of 10 people with lupus are women, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. 

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People may have heard about it in the news with celebrities like Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga and Nick Cannon revealing their diagnoses.

It’s most commonly diagnosed in people 15 to 44 years old and certain racial and ethnic groups are more prone to getting it, like African Americans and Asian Americans, Hispanic and Latino people, and Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. Like most other autoimmune diseases, lupus often runs in families. 

Common symptoms include extreme fatigue, joint pain or skin rashes. In rare cases the disease may lead to kidney or heart damage. It can also weaken the immune system so the body can’t fight off infections, making it life-threatening and potentially deadly. 

There are four different types of lupus, but the most common is known as systemic lupus erythematosus

In a new experimental study, scientists discovered lupus-related changes in certain molecules circulating in the blood of those with the disease. The researchers found T cells may be the culprit. T cells are white blood cells that help the body fight infection. 

The study found those with lupus have too much of a particular T cell associated with damage in healthy cells, called type-I interferon, and too little of another T cell associated with repair.

Historically, lupus has been difficult to treat. Most of the current options broadly suppress the whole immune system, including the good T cells that fight infection. This new breakthrough could change that. 

Researchers said as part of the experiment, they added beneficial molecules to the blood of lupus patients and it reprogrammed lupus-causing cells to change their behavior. According to the scientists, this could boost healing from lupus-related damage. 

Moving forward, the research team plans to investigate how these disease-reversing molecules can be incorporated into a medication that would not only treat the disease, but also potentially reverse it. 

The CDC estimates more than 200,000 people in the U.S. have lupus, however, the Lupus Foundation of America reported it’s more like roughly 1.5 million people.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

A MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGH – SCIENTISTS BELIEVE THEY’VE FIGURED OUT THE ROOT CAUSE OF LUPUS… AND THEY MIGHT BE ABLE TO REVERSE IT. 

LET’S TAKE IT FROM THE TOP: WHAT IS LUPUS? 

YOU MIGHT’VE HEARD ABOUT IT IN THE NEWS WITH CELEBRITIES LIKE SELENA GOMEZ, LADY GAGA, AND NICK CANNON REVEALING THEIR DIAGNOSES. 

LUPUS IS A CHRONIC AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASE THAT CAN CAUSE INFLAMMATION AND PAIN THROUGHOUT YOUR BODY. 

WHILE ANYONE CAN GET LUPUS – IT’S MORE COMMON IN WOMEN… 

IN FACT, 9 OUT OF 10 PEOPLE WITH LUPUS ARE WOMEN, ACCORDING TO THE LUPUS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA. 

IT’S MOST COMMONLY DIAGNOSED IN PEOPLE 15 TO 44 YEARS OLD… AND CERTAIN RACIAL AND ETHNIC GROUPS ARE MORE PRONE TO GETTING IT – LIKE AFRICAN AND ASIAN AMERICANS, HISPANIC OR LATINO PEOPLE, NATIVE AMERICANS, OR PACIFIC ISLANDERS. 

AND LIKE MOST OTHER AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASES – LUPUS OFTEN RUNS IN FAMILIES. 

COMMON SYMPTOMS INCLUDE EXTREME FATIGUE, JOINT PAIN OR SKIN RASHES. 

IN RARE CASES… THE DISEASE MAY LEAD TO KIDNEY OR HEART DAMAGE –

REMEMBER WHEN SELENA GOMEZ GOT A KIDNEY TRANSPLANT FROM HER FRIEND?  

IT CAN ALSO WEAKEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM SO THE BODY CAN’T FIGHT OFF INFECTIONS, MAKING IT LIFE-THREATENING AND POTENTIALLY DEADLY. 

THERE ARE FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES OF LUPUS – BUT THE MOST COMMON IS KNOWN AS SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSIS. 

UP UNTIL NOW – NO ONE KNEW WHAT CAUSED LUPUS… BUT NOW RESEARCHERS FROM NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE AND BRIGHAM AND WOMEN’S HOSPITAL SAY THEY MAY HAVE UNCOVERED ONE SPECIFIC CAUSE OF THE DISEASE.

IN AN NEW EXPERIMENTAL STUDY – SCIENTISTS DISCOVERED LUPUS-RELATED CHANGES IN CERTAIN MOLECULES CIRCULATING IN THE BLOOD OF PEOPLE WITH THE DISEASE… AND FOUND THEIR T CELLS MAY BE THE CULPRIT. 

T CELLS ARE WHITE BLOOD CELLS THAT HELP THE BODY FIGHT INFECTION. 

RESEARCHERS FOUND THOSE WITH LUPUS HAVE TOO MUCH OF A PARTICULAR T CELL ASSOCIATED WITH DAMAGE IN HEALTHY CELLS – CALLED TYPE ONE INTERFERON – AND TOO LITTLE OF ANOTHER T CELL ASSOCIATED WITH REPAIR. 

HISTORICALLY, LUPUS HAS BEEN DIFFICULT TO TREAT – MOST OF THE CURRENT OPTIONS BROADLY SUPPRESS THE *WHOLE* IMMUNE SYSTEM… INCLUDING THE GOOD T CELLS THAT FIGHT INFECTION. 

THIS NEW BREAKTHROUGH COULD CHANGE THAT. 

RESEARCHERS SAY AS PART OF THE EXPERIMENT, THEY ADDED BENEFICIAL MOLECULES TO THE BLOOD OF LUPUS PATIENTS… AND IT REPROGRAMMED LUPUS-CAUSING CELLS TO CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOR – WHICH THEY SAY COULD BOOST HEALING FROM LUPUS-RELATED DAMAGE. 

MOVING FORWARD – THE RESEARCH TEAM PLANS TO INVESTIGATE HOW THESE DISEASE-REVERSING MOLECULES CAN BE INCORPORATED INTO A MEDICATION THAT WOULD NOT ONLY TREAT THE DISEASE – BUT ALSO POTENTIALLY REVERSE IT.  

THE C-D-C ESTIMATES MORE THAN 200–THOUSAND PEOPLE IN THE U-S HAVE LUPUS – HOWEVER, THE LUPUS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA SAYS IT’S MORE LIKE ROUGHLY 1.5 MILLION PEOPLE.