Lupus Nephritis Focus of New, Nationwide Research Consortium

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by Margarida Azevedo |

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The division of Nephrology and Hypertension at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center (TTUHSC) El Paso has been invited to collaborate in a multiple-institute, nationwide research consortium that aims to better understand the causes behind, and discover new potential treatments for, lupus nephritis.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease, characterized by intermittent and unpredictable exacerbations (flares) of symptoms, such as inflammation and swelling of joints, fatigue, skin rashes, and arthritis. As in other autoimmune diseases, the immune system of lupus patients attacks healthy tissue by producing antibodies against self-proteins, and it can affect any tissue and organ of the body.  The manifestation of the disease in the kidneys is called lupus nephritis.

The national research consortium, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry under the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) initiative, was created  to discover wide-ranging therapies for lupus nephritis and, potentially, other autoimmune diseases. It is planned to last for five years and cost about $42 million. A number of U.S. institutes will participate in addition to TTUHSC El Paso, such as the University of California, San Francisco; Temple University; the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research; and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The research outline consists in collecting  blood, urine and, tissue samples from newly diagnosed lupus nephritis patients. After a year of treatment, patient samples will be collected again and the scientists will study disease progression to better understand its causes.

“There have been no new treatments for lupus in the past 20 to 30 years. Many of the drugs have not panned out — they do not work for all patients or they cause negative side effects,” said Dr. S. Connery, director of research in TTUHSC El Paso’s Department of Internal Medicine, in a press release. “We’re part of a huge initiative to change that.”

The research effort at TTUHSC El Paso will be lead by Germán T. Hernández, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine and adjunct associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology, and Hasan Salameh, MD, assistant professor of medicine and program director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program.