Lupus is a chronic and debilitating autoimmune illness that causes inflammation in the body, especially organs like kidneys, the brain and even the skin. Unfortunately, there is no cure but various studies have been launched in this area to better understand the disease and its underlying causes, thus paving way for the creation of therapeutic interventions for prevention and potential cure.
Scientists recently made a key findings through one of the ongoing research efforts on Lupus. The findings of a study conducted by researchers from CHU de Québec-Université Laval Research Center and Université Laval suggests that platelets might be one of the key influences in Lupus development. The study findings revealed that lupus patients have extracellular DNA that causes the inflammation linked to the disease. They also found that the DNA is produced by platelets.
“When DNA circulates freely in the blood, antigen-antibody complexes form and accumulate in the tissues where the lupus presents. Until now, we didn’t know exactly where this genetic material was coming from,” noted Professor Éric Boilard, the lead author in the study.
How the research came to the conclusion
The researchers collected and studied 74 blood samples from lupus patients as part of the study. They discovered that the extracellular DNA resided in platelet mitochondria. Due to this, the body detects the mitochondria and mitochondria DNA as foreign bodies, thus triggering the production of antibodies ready to attack.
Mitochondria and DNA are released upon platelet activation, but this activation does not seem to be attached to regular platelet functions like preventing bleeding. This might be a key discovery in the fight against lupus. Researchers believe that the new understanding provided by the research may pave way for the development of therapeutic approaches that may prove effective in treating lupus patients. However, there is still some way to go before that can be achieved.
The current limitation after the extracellular DNA discovery is the fact that researchers are yet to understand the activation process. Understanding the mechanisms behind the activation process will pave way for the development of ways of stopping the release of mitochondria DNA. This approach may stop or prevent the autoimmune reactions that occur in lupus patients.