Elahna Paul, MD, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

2003/2004 Biomarkers

End-stage kidney disease in lupus is called lupus nephritis, or lupus glomerulonephritis. This life-threatening complication occurs in 30 to 75 percent of people with lupus, and commonly causes kidney failure and the need for chronic dialysis or transplantation.

But who among all people with lupus are at risk for this complication?

An immunologist and pediatric nephrologist, Dr. Paul had a novel idea: use her special mouse model to identify and block pathways of kidney cell activation and associated inflammation in lupus.

With LRI funding, she set out to characterize precisely how kidney cells in mice react to an autoimmune attack. And to better predict kidney involvement, she looked at kidney lesions that occur early in the disease.

“If we discover that a kidney cell reacts one way in one lupus mouse model and again the same way in a different lupus model,” she explained upon beginning her research, “then we may have an opportunity to understand important biological events that repeat not only in kidneys of lupus mice but also in the kidneys of people with lupus.”

The hope: that biomarkers and tools for earlier diagnosis of kidney involvement in lupus might emerge, so that action can be taken early to prevent permanent damage.

Ongoing funding:

In 2008, Dr. Paul won a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue her groundbreaking work on mouse models of lupus nephritis.

Rev. July 2010