Specific Interferon Combinations Linked to Lupus Symptoms, Study Finds

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine identified specific combinations of elevated immune system proteins called interferons associated with certain lupus symptoms. The study analyzed 341 samples from 191 participants, revealing four categories of interferon combinations linked to different lupus presentations.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Specific Interferon Combinations Linked to Lupus Symptoms, Study Finds

Specific Interferon Combinations Linked to Lupus Symptoms, Study Finds

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have uncovered new insights into why lupus symptoms and severity vary among individuals with the autoimmune condition, which affects up to 1.5 million Americans. The study, published in Cell Reports Medicine on May 13, 2024, reveals that specific combinations and elevated levels of immune system proteins called interferons are associated with certain lupus symptoms, such as skin rashes, kidney inflammation, and joint pain.

Why this matters: This discovery has the potential to lead to more targeted and effective treatments for lupus patients, improving their quality of life and reducing the risk of severe complications. Furthermore, understanding the role of interferons in lupus could also shed light on their involvement in other autoimmune diseases, paving the way for broader advances in medical research.

Interferons normally help fight infection or disease, but are overactive in lupus, causing widespread inflammation and damage. The research team, led by corresponding author and rheumatologist Felipe Andrade, M.D., Ph.D., analyzed 341 samples from 191 participants to determine the activity of three interferon groups: interferon I, interferon II, and interferon III.

The study identified four categories of participants based on their interferon combinations: those with increased interferon I only, those with a combination of increased interferons I, II, and III, those with a combination of increased interferons II and III, and those with normal interferon levels. Elevated interferon I was associated with skin symptoms like rashes or sores, while elevated levels of interferons I, II, and III were linked to severe lupus presentations, including significant kidney damage.

"What we've seen in our study is that these interferon groups are not isolated; they work as a team in lupus and can give patients different presentations of the disease," said Eduardo Gómez-Bañuelos, M.D., Ph.D., first and additional corresponding author. The study also found that other common lupus-related symptoms, such as blood clots and low platelet counts, cannot be explained by increased interferon levels.

Evaluating a patient's elevated interferon combinations could allow clinicians to better understand how they may react to treatments and group them into clinical subtypes of lupus. This research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, sheds new light on the complex role interferons play in lupus symptoms and severity. The findings could lead to more targeted treatment approaches for the millions living with this autoimmune disease.

Key Takeaways

  • Researchers identify specific interferon combinations linked to lupus symptoms and severity.
  • Elevated interferon I associated with skin symptoms, while combinations of I, II, and III linked to severe kidney damage.
  • Interferon combinations can predict treatment outcomes and group patients into clinical subtypes of lupus.
  • Understanding interferons' role in lupus could shed light on their involvement in other autoimmune diseases.
  • Findings could lead to more targeted and effective treatments for lupus patients, improving quality of life.