Another Key to Lupus

Patients with the autoimmune disease have excessive levels of a particular protein

FRIDAY, Dec. 5, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- People with lupus have excessive levels of a protein called B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS), says a study in the December issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism.

The finding, by a team of researchers at the University of Southern California Medical Center and Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, indicates that further research should be done into the benefits of reducing BLyS levels in people with lupus.

BLyS, which belongs to a large family of proteins that cause inflammation, plays an important role in the production and survival of B cells, which are the source of antibodies that protect against infection. But when BLyS is present in abnormally high levels, it can trigger the destructive autoantibodies -- a hallmark of lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects the kidneys, liver, lungs and heart.

This study included 68 people with lupus and 20 healthy people used as a control group. Blood samples, which were analyzed for the expression of BLyS, were taken at the start of the study and periodically throughout the remainder of the study.

BLyS levels among the health controls were all within a narrow range and remained stable over the course of the study. But BLyS levels varied considerably among the lupus patients. About half of the people with lupus had elevated BLyS levels, some persistently and others intermittently. Most of the other lupus patients remained within the normal range.

When lupus patients with elevated BLyS levels were given high-dose corticosteroid treatments, their BLyS levels generally fell back to normal range. When the researchers tapered back the corticosteroid doses in these patients, their BLyS expression quickly returned to abnormally high levels.

Despite the potential danger of high BLyS expression causing autoantibody production, the researchers found no definitive link between elevated BLyS and specific organ damage.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about lupus.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, Dec. 5, 2003
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