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Scientists recognised for transformative lupus research projects

The Lupus Research Alliance has announced the 2018 recipients of the Dr. William E. Paul Distinguished Innovator Award in Lupus and Autoimmunity: namely, Nir Hacohen, PhD and Vijay Kuchroo, DVM, PhD.

Dr. Hacohen is seeking better ways to treat lupus kidney disease, the major cause of illness and death among patients with lupus. Dr. Kuchroo is looking at ways to harness regulatory T and B cells as a new approach to lupus treatment. Both projects have the potential to stimulate innovative strategies for prevention, treatment, and cure of lupus.

Dr. Hacohen serves as Director of the Center for Cell Circuits and Center for Cancer Immunology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Broad Institute, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kuchroo is a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

The immune response in lupus nephritis

Lupus nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) is a major cause of illness and death among patients with lupus. The failure to stop the harmful effects caused by lupus nephritis is thought by many researchers to be due to an incomplete understanding of the immune system. 

Dr. Hacohen is seeking to understand why the immune response (to tumors, bacteria or self) varies so dramatically across individuals. According to Dr. Hacohen, “The results of these studies will generate new hypotheses for how immune cells work together to cause tissue damage in lupus nephritis patient kidneys, lead to new drug targets and better predictors of disease, and guide researchers in the improvement of mouse models to understand human lupus nephritis.”

The role proteins play in regulating the body’s immune system in lupus

T cells and B cells are the primary types of lymphocytes (a subtype of white blood cells) that determine the body’s immune response to foreign substances in the body,” noted Dr. Kuchroo. “Once activated to mount an immune response, T and B cells need to be turned off by another class of regulatory cells. In patients with lupus, these regulatory cells are not able to properly function. This study will examine how to induce and promote the function of these regulatory T and B cells for treating lupus.”