Decoding lupus using DNA clues

People with systemic lupus erythematosus can experience a variety of symptoms, such as fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes and kidney problems. Often the symptoms come and go in episodes called flares. In lupus, the immune system goes haywire and produces antibodies that are directed against the body itself.

The immune system can produce many types of antibodies, directed against infectious viruses (good) or against human proteins as in lupus (harmful). Each antibody-secreting cell carries a DNA rearrangement that reflects the makeup of its antibody product. Scientists can use the DNA to identify and track that cell, like reading a bar code on an item in a supermarket.

Postdoc Chris Tipton, GRA Eminent Scholar and IMP faculty member, Iñaki Sanz, and colleagues at Emory have been investigating some fundamental questions about lupus: where do the cells that produce the self-reactive antibodies come from? Are they all the same?

Their findings were published in Nature Immunology in May. It’s an example of how next-generation sequencing technology is deepening our understanding of autoimmune diseases.

A recent PLOS One paper from Patrick Wilson and Rafi Ahmed shows that lupus patients have anti-influenza antibodies with higher binding affinity and neutralization capacity than those from controls. Dr. Ahmed is a faculty member in the IMP and MMG programs.

Click here to view the full story in Lab Land, the Emory Health Sciences Research Blog. Click here to view the story and video also in Lab Land.