Scottish Rite for Children Lupus Research Genetics

Nov 19, 2021 / Research & Innovation

Study Shows That Lupus May Be Triggered by Red Blood Cells with Mitochondria

Researchers at Scottish Rite for Children collaborated in a recent study on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic disease that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissues and cells. The study showed that lupus may be triggered by red blood cells that fail to shed their mitochondria. Mitochondria help convert oxygen into energy in most cells, but they are not normally in red blood cells. When red blood cells hold onto their mitochondria, it can trigger the harmful immune activity associated with lupus. Participants with the most severe lupus symptoms had red blood cells with detectible levels of mitochondria, while healthy controls had no mitochondria-containing red blood cells.

The lead author of the study, Simone Caielli, Ph.D., is the assistant professor of immunology research at the Drukier Institute and the Department of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine. Caielli says they are working hard to progress with this interesting new lead because there is still more to be learned. “We hope that the discovery of this pathway could now open the door to new possibilities for therapeutic interventions in patients with lupus.”

Division Director of Rheumatology Tracey B. Wright, M.D., and research coordinator Lynette Walters, B.S., M.S., CCRC, are among the staff from Scottish Rite for Children involved with this study. “Lupus is a serious disease that needs more effective and targeted treatments,” says Wright. “We are hopeful that our research will help us move towards personalized medicine for patients.”

Walters is excited about the discovery made by the team because of what it may mean for pediatric patients in the future. “These new discoveries will influence other research and possibly the trajectory of future therapies that will allow children live better lives.”

Find out more about the study here.

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