Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus, is a progressive, degenerative disease in which the immune system turns against itself, attacking a person’s healthy tissue, cells and organs. Symptoms range from debilitating pain and fatigue to organ failure and a host of other impairments. An estimated 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million people worldwide, have a form of this disease.
With only one drug specifically approved for the treatment of lupus in the past 50 years, lupus patients are commonly treated with steroids, a class of immunosuppressive drugs that delay the development and progression of the disease by suppressing the immune system. By suppressing the immune system in its entirety, however, this mode of treatment carries with it an increased risk of infections and other harmful side effects.In this latest research, Mohan and his colleagues present new findings that detail the use of a synthetic, plant-derived compound — abbreviated CDDO — that was shown to effectively suppress the multiple steps of lupus development in murine models, including the onset of kidney disease.
One of the most common organs to be attacked by lupus is the kidney, manifesting in this disease nephritis. While this condition doesn’t affect all this disease sufferers, an estimated 40 percent of this disease patients develop it. Lupus nephritis, which causes inflammation of the kidneys and impairs their ability to effectively rid the body of waste products and other toxins, is the leading cause of lupus-related deaths and results in tens of thousands of hospitalizations per year.”The development of lupus is a two-step reaction. First, the immune system develops antibodies that attack the body’s own DNA, then that activated immune system attacks the kidneys,” Mohan said. “We found that CDDO may block both of these steps.”
Mohan says there is much left to be discovered about CDDO, including how it works in suppressing the progression of this disease. The next step for this research is to confirm whether the CDDO compound suppresses the immune system across the board, or whether it simply suppresses the activation of the specific signaling pathways that lead to the development of lupus. “The most exciting part of this research is that CDDO is originally plant-derived, so it’s relatively natural and carries less chance of side effects,” Mohan said. “That’s a very important point, because many of the current therapeutic agents being used for this disease have significant side effects.