Lupus is a severe, neglected disease primarily suffered by women of any age and is particularly dangerous in pregnancy. There are 10,000 Australians with lupus, 85 percent of whom are women. The disease onset is usually in young adult women and there is no cure, resulting in a chronic disease that continues to afflict patients throughout life.
Our research in this project is focused on discovering the cause of lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE), about which very little is known, with the aim of preventing the disease.
We have discovered that the trigger of inflammation is a receptor on inflammatory cells called Fc Receptor. This receptor interacts with aberrant antibodies called immune complexes which then activates the inflammatory cascade. In experimental models we can inhibit this inflammation with his engineered monoclonal antibodies designer drugs.
A common complication of lupus is anti-phospholipid syndrome which leads to abnormal, life-threatening blood clotting. We have identified a likely cause of this condition which we are researching to develop a diagnostic test allowing early intervention with our potential new treatments.
It is particularly interesting that a number of the mutations we have discovered which may predispose to antiphospholipid syndrome in Lupus, are also found in the broader community and potentially affect as many as 600,000 people in Australia alone.