Systemic lupus erythematosus is a disorder of the immune system in which the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissue - an autoimmune disease. The antibodies attack different parts of the cell, such as the DNA. The disorder can affect many parts of the body such as the joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, heart and blood vessels. Antibodies are also directed against the nervous system leading to headaches and psychological problems that include paranoia, mania, and schizophrenia, seizures and stroke. 4 out of 10,000 people are affected, particularly women of child-bearing age and those of African and Asian descent. There is no cure.
Beyond the knowledge that antibodies are involved, scientists have hitherto had no idea precisely how lupus destroys the nervous system. Now (Nature Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 11, November 2001), researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered that lupus antibodies attach to parts of a receptor that is commonly found on nerves-the NR2 subunits of the NMDA receptor. The antibodies are believed to destroy neurons by attaching to these receptors and triggering apoptosis, or programmed cell death, of the nerves.
Understanding how a disease occurs at the molecular level opens up opportunities for developing new treatments for the disease. Brian Kotzin and Elizabeth Kozora of the University of Colorado discuss the findings in an accompanying News & Views article.
Dr. Betty Diamond
Departments of Microbiology, Immunology and Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bronx, NY, USA
Tel: +1 718 430-4081
Fax: +1 718 430-8711
Drs Brian Kotzin and Elizabeth Kozora
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Division of Clinical Immunology (B-164)
4200 E Ninth Avenue
Denver, CO, USA
Tel: +1 303 315-6977
Fax: +1 303 315-7642
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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