Dr. Lionel Ivashkiv, associate chief scientific officer at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, said clinicians have known that kidney damage occurs in many patients with lupus, and they have known how the disease triggers the start of kidney disease. Little has been known about one type of lupus kidney disease, proliferative crescentic disease that is associated with adverse outcomes and decreased survival.
The researchers used a mouse model of lupus. They increased interferon production that caused advanced kidney disease to occur in the mice rapidly.
"The standard treatment for lupus kidney disease is to block inflammation," Ivashkiv said in a statement. "This study suggests you might want to target the macrophages -- a specific type of white blood cell involved in the disease."
The type of macrophages involved were not the most common type of inflammatory macrophages but, "alternatively activated macrophages" that are involved in wound healing and induce the proliferation of cells, the researchers said.
"This study suggests a new drug target. If you could understand how to target the macrophages and inhibit them or the growth factors that they produce, this might be a different approach to therapy," Ivashki said.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.