OU researcher working to develop new approach to treating Lupus

NORMAN, Okla. – An Oklahoma researcher is working to develop a new way to diagnose and treat an autoimmune disease that affects over one million Americans.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that cannot be cured and affects up to 1.5 million Americans. Symptoms vary but can include fatigue, joint pain, rash and fever, which periodically get worse and then improve.

“In this autoimmune disease, the body responds adversely to complex molecules that the body produces. In order to better understand the progression of this disease and initiate possible therapies, we need to better understand how these biomolecules may change over time. Advances in detection and identification methodologies are needed to address this and related autoimmune diseases,” said Ronald L. Halterman, academic chair, OU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, OU College of Arts and Sciences.

Si Wu, a researcher at the University of Oklahoma, is teaming up with other researchers from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Indiana University to create new strategies that can lead to an earlier diagnosis and intervention in patients suffering from Lupus.

“We are providing the first snapshot of autoantibody development in Lupus patients by developing a novel detection method using a top-down mass spectrometry approach for identifying disease-specific autoantibodies quickly,” said Wu, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, OU College of Arts and Sciences. “This may lead to novel biomarkers and a foundation for new strategies for the early detection of Lupus. To our knowledge, we are the first to apply this approach in understanding how autoantibodies become pathogenic.”

At this point, investigators are purifying antibodies from patients to provide a clear evaluation of the disease over time. Once researchers are able link certain antibodies to disease activity, they will then work to determine how they can change the disease progression with various medications.

Organizers say they hope once they figure out how to characterize antibodies, their research can be easily adapted to fit other autoimmune diseases.

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