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Advancing Lupus Research

Posted on July 27, 2018


The Lupus Foundation of America has partnered with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to fund a phase II study to evaluate the effectiveness of mesenchymal stem cells as a way to treat moderate to severe cases of lupus.

The NIAID has committed to the project for five years; it will support the study and fund a data coordination center. The organization will also support safety and site monitoring and other facets of the research.

During the first year of the joint project, the NIAID will support the project with $720,000 in funding. The Lupus Foundation of America has committed to funding the project with $3.8 million over the study’s duration.

According to the Lupus Foundation, approximately 1.5 million Americans are living with the autoimmune disease.

Although the condition can affect both men and women, women are predominantly affected. African American women are 30 percent more likely to develop lupus than white women. Other minority groups also have a higher risk of getting the disease.

The condition typically develops in middle age.

The symptoms of lupus vary from person to person. The most common symptoms are achy, painful and swollen joints; fever; rash; and extreme fatigue. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light, pain while breathing, hair loss and seizures.

“Lupus is a life-altering condition that can affect a patient’s quality of life,” said Dr. Joel Singer.

Singer is a New York physician who uses personal cell therapy to treat people living with lupus.

The cells used in regenerative therapies are a type of mesenchymal stem cell. Mesenchymal stem cells can develop into many different types of tissue, including muscle, cartilage, ligaments, fat, blood vessels and teeth.

The leaders of this co-study hope to determine if stem cell therapy is a safe and effective treatment for individuals who are living with lupus who do not respond to conventional medical treatment.

“Traditional treatments typically include medications such as anti-inflammatories, antimalarial medications, immunosuppressants and corticosteroids,” Singer said.

These medications aim at reducing inflammation, treating symptoms or slowing down the disease’s development.

“Unfortunately, not all individuals living with lupus respond to or can tolerate these treatments,” Singer said.

These drugs can also cause dangerous side effects when used long term.

Personal cells can reduce the inflammation and pain of lupus. They can also help to “reset” the immune system back to normal function, which means the body stops attacking itself.

The organizations also hope that mesenchymal stem cell therapy can help reduce the long-term impact of lupus.

The joint project is an exciting one, as lupus is a serious illness that has been underfunded for many years.

“The effects of lupus can be fatal,” Singer said.

Living with lupus can be tricky; patients need to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent their condition from flaring up.

“People living with lupus should avoid stress, eat healthily and avoid behaviors such as smoking and overindulging in alcohol,” Singer said.

Other recommendations are to rest as much as possible and to wear sunscreen to protect the skin because those living with lupus are photosensitive.

Those living with lupus should also get pneumonia and flu vaccines to protect against infections.


The Lupus Foundation. Major Lupus Stem Cell Study Receives Additional Funding from the National Institutes of Health. 10 July 2018.


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