Discovery opens doors to treating symptom that can cause the body to attack itself
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have identified a variant of the human gene for tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) as the cause for photosensitivity in lupus patients. This discovery, which was presented today at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, will not only help in treating photosensitivity, but will also advance research on treating this potentially damaging symptom and possibly point to one of the genetic causes of lupus.
Victoria Werth, MD Associate Professor of Dermatology and Medicine in Penn’s School of Medicine, working in collaboration with Kathleen E. Sullivan, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and attending physician in The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Division of Allergy and Immunology, identified a variant of the TNF-alpha promoter that showed increased activity when exposed to sunlight. This discovery is crucial to understanding photosensitivity and lupus because TNF-alpha has been shown to stimulate apoptosis, the process of cellular death. As skin cells die, intracellular proteins move to the cell’s surfaces where they stimulate an immune reaction. The immune system makes new antibodies against these proteins and triggers further inflammation, causing the body to attack its own internal organs - just from sunlight.
Jen Miller | University of Pennsylvania
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