Lupus defect addressed
New research offers hope for a lasting lupus treatment.
Researchers from Monash University have unveiled a pioneering approach that could provide a long-term solution for lupus and potentially other similar conditions.
Their latest study showcases a method for correcting a cellular defect responsible for lupus, marking a pivotal step forward in autoimmune disease treatment.
It uses a technique that involves reprogramming the defective immune cells in lupus patients using protective molecules derived from healthy individuals.
This method, which has shown promising results in both test tubes and animal models, is designed to restore the immune system's protective capabilities, thereby preventing it from attacking the body's own tissues.
Lupus, an autoimmune disease characterised by the immune system's assault on its cells, has long challenged medical professionals due to its complexity and lack of a definitive cure.
The Monash University-led discovery offers hope not only for the approximately one in a thousand Australians living with lupus, but also for individuals suffering from other autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
“We were able to completely arrest the development of lupus kidney disease, without the use of the usual non-specific and harmful immunosuppressant drugs,” said Associate Professor Ooi.
He said the approach, which leverages the patient's own cells for treatment, is like “a major software upgrade” for the immune system.
The team's research also holds particular promise for First Nations communities and women, who are disproportionately affected by lupus, often developing the disease between the ages of 15 and 45.
Professor Morand has described the treatment's effectiveness as “profound” and a “game-changer” for lupus management, with the research group now moving towards designing clinical trials slated to begin in 2026.
The method involves modifying blood cells from the lupus patient in the laboratory to restore their protective function, then reintroducing them to the patient's body.
This targeted approach aims to specifically correct the immune defect causing the disease, offering a safer alternative to current treatments that broadly suppress the immune system.
Co-first authors Peter Eggenhuizen and Dr Rachel Cheong say the method could be applied for up to 100 autoimmune diseases.
Supported by multiple national and international agencies, including the Lupus Research Alliance, this study is part of a larger body of work that earned Professor Morand and Associate Professor Ooi the 2022 Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation in Life Sciences.