“The study identifies very good therapeutic targets, and what needs to be done is identify better candidate drugs,” said Lionel Ivashkiv, M.D., director of Basic Research at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. He led the study, which was published online in Nature Immunology on December 16 and will appear in print in February.
Because abnormally high levels of interferon-alpha can lead to lupus, researchers have developed drugs that block interferon. These drugs, however, have immunosuppressive side effects that can leave patients vulnerable to various illnesses and infections, some of which can be deadly. Currently, these drugs are being tested in clinical trials. If researchers are able to develop drugs for the newly identified drug targets, patients may be able to avoid these immunosuppressive effects.
Interferons have two major functions. First, they protect against viruses and second, they regulate immune responses, strengthening immune responses and playing a role in autoimmunity. Different proteins, called STATs, mediate the two functions of IFN. STAT1 mediates the autoimmune and inflammatory functions, and STAT2 mediates the virus protection function. “What we were interested in understanding is how you can regulate the balance between activating the inflammatory effects and the antiviral effects,” Dr. Ivashkiv said. “We thought if we could control the functions of the interferons, that would lead to new therapeutic approaches where you could block specifically some of their functions, but not others.”
The investigators discovered that calcium specifically increases activation of STAT1 by interferons, and thus turned their attention to calcium. The researchers tested whether two kinase enzymes in the calcium-signaling pathway, CAMK and Pyk2, could be manipulated to control STAT1. In studies involving mice, the investigators showed that blocking these calcium-signaling pathways with a drug called KN-93 regulated the amount of STAT1, but not STAT2 activation.
“What we found was that these kinases that are regulated by calcium actually regulate the strength of activation of STAT1 by the interferons, but they do not regulate the strength of activation of STAT2,” said Dr. Ivashkiv. “The idea was if you block these signaling pathways, would you block the STAT1 part, which controls the inflammatory/deleterious effects and preserve the antiviral part. We tested that in an animal model of lupus and we were able to show, in vivo, that you can suppress STAT1 activation by inhibiting the calcium-dependent kinases.”
The researchers say that their work has identified a new therapeutic approach for attacking lupus. “What the companies are trying to develop are, basically, antibodies against the interferons. The concern there is that if you block the interferon completely, patients may become very immunosuppressed and unable to handle viral infections,” Dr. Ivashkiv said. “Our idea is that if you block these calcium pathways, you could block the deleterious effects of the interferon, but maintain the antiviral effects.”
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys and brain. Inflammation, considered the primary feature of lupus, is characterized by pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function. In most people, the disease affects only a few organs and symptoms are mild, but in others, the disease can cause serious and even life-threatening problems. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, an estimated 16,000 Americans develop lupus each year.
Phyllis Fisher | EurekAlert!
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy