Two Researchers Will Develop New Therapy with Grant from Lupus Research Institute

The Lupus Research Institute has granted a three-year, $300,000 Novel Research Award to support the work on the disease being done by Tarek Fahmy, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Joseph Craft, professor of medicine and immunobiology and chief of rheumatology.

Their project will develop a combination therapy with nanoparticles that target pathogenic immune cells.

Cells of the immune system protect the body against foreign material, such as bacteria and viruses. In lupus, a small population of those cells malfunctions and attacks different parts of the body, causing inflammation in places such as the skin, joints and kidneys. It is not clear to scientists how this error begins, but they do know that the disease advances because these renegade immune system cells group, interact and trigger each other to cause harm.

Fahmy and Craft will design and test a nanoparticle system, about the size of a virus that can target those cells and interfere with their interaction in model systems of lupus. The biodegradable particles, which are safe for use in humans, will be loaded with the drug mycophenolic acid and blockading agents that target auto-reactive T cell ­subsets and interfere with how these cells communicate.

“We have promising preliminary data showing that this targeted combination delivery of drugs to T cells is a more effective and potent form of specific therapy than use of a free drug,” says Fahmy.

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