Explanations to Organ Damage

Presentations at ACR by Dr. Mariana Kaplan at the National Institutes of Health with Carolyne Smith at University of Michigan and by Dr. Marcus Clark of University of Chicago offer insights into damage to the cardiovascular system and the kidneys, two of the most common complications of lupus.

Ms. Smith presented results of LRI-funded research with Dr. Kaplan on what may cause cardiovascular disease in people with lupus. The immune cells of lupus patients are more likely to release chemicals called neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) that kill microorganisms like bacteria and fungi.

Ms. Smith reported that these antimicrobial chemicals turn “good” cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) into a form that harms rather than protects the cardiovascular system. This process could explain increased damage to the blood vessels and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in lupus patients.

Dr. Marcus Clark reported a pioneering approach to measure the extent of active immune responses within the kidney. This evaluation could potentially help predict how patients with lupus nephritis will respond to treatment. Dr. Clark's new work stems from his earlier LRI-funded discoveries highlighting the importance of immune cells within the kidney.