Breakthrough opens way for curing auto-immune disease

March 13th, 2012 - 12:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, March 13 (IANS) A revolutionary breakthrough could finally pave the way to cure practically incurable and debilitating auto-immune diseases such as lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome.

These auto-immune diseases are caused by the body mistakenly targeting healthy tissue as unhealthy ones, producing antibodies that attack the body’s own organs.

Doctoral student Rhianna Lindop from Flinders University has developed a technique with Flinder’s proteomics (study of proteins) experts Georgia Arentz and Tim Chataway to analyse a type of antibody that contributes to the progression of lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Systemic lupus erythematosus, often abbreviated to SLE or lupus, is a systemic auto-immune disease that can affect any part of the body. In Sjogren’s syndrome, immune cells attack and destroy the exocrine glands that produce tears and saliva.

“We all have proteins in our body but in people with auto-immune diseases the body recognises these ’self’ proteins to be foreign and responds to them by producing antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissues and organs,” Lindop said, according to a Flinders statement.

Using a mass spectrometry machine, the researchers have - for the first time - analysed the antibody’s molecular structure in lupus and Sjogren’s patients to determine its sequence at a “protein level” rather than just on the genomic, or DNA scale, as previous research has done.

The findings have shown that all patients with the particular antibody demonstrated a common molecular signature.

With no cure for the two conditions, Lindop said her groundbreaking research could lead to a “next generation of diagnostics and therapeutics”.

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