19:29 PM

HSS Wins New Lupus Grant

Alessandra Pernis, MD, Peter Jay Sharp Chair at HSS, in New York City, has been awarded a highly competitive grant from The Lupus Research Alliance of $200,000 a year for three years to study a new class of B cells, called autoimmune-associated B cells, which has recently been shown to make autoantibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Dr. Pernis will use the funding to examine the mechanisms that control the growth and function of these cells.

Despite significant strides, many patients with SLE continue to have poorly controlled disease. “We have really been lagging behind in therapeutics for lupus. We know a lot about the disease, but we have not been able to target it as effectively as we would like,” said Dr. Pernis.

Dr. Pernis will explore the role of autoimmune-associated B cells in promoting tissue damage in lupus to see if she can identify new targets for drugs that could help prevent tissue damage and disease progression.

“These cells could also explain some of the heterogeneity in lupus where one patient develops one complication in one organ and another patient develops a complication in another organ,” said Dr. Pernis. “Right now, one of the targets that has gained a lot of attention has been the interferons.” By using both genetic approaches and antibodies to block the interferon pathway, the researchers will also use the funding to determine whether blocking the interferons would be more effective in inhibiting autoimmune-associated B cells in some tissues than others.

Additional coverage: Lupusresearch.org