July 14 (UPI) -- A rheumatologist at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research has possibly identified a protein as a cause for the adverse immune system response in lupus.
The study was published July 10 in the journal Nature Immunology.
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder causing the immune system to lose the ability to tell the difference between healthy tissue and foreign agents, causing the immune system to become hyperactive and attack healthy tissue -- which leads to inflammation and damage to joints, skin and internal organs.
A variation in the gene PRDM1 known as polymorphism is a risk factor for lupus and PRDM1 enables the production of the protein Blimp-1.
"A healthy immune system is able to identify organisms that are not normally in the body and activate cells like T-Cells to attack them," Dr. Betty Diamond, a rheumatologist and professor at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, said in a press release.
"In the case of patients with an autoimmune disease like lupus, the immune system has started to identify healthy cells as something to target. Our study found that a low level of or no Blimp-1 protein in a particular cell type led to an increase in the protein CTSS which caused the immune system to identify healthy cells as something to attack -- particularly in females."
In animal studies, Diamond was able to show that females with reduced production of Blimp-1 protein lead to an increase in CTSS, resulting in an immune system that attacked healthy cells. Male animals with reduced production of Blimp-1 had no change in their immune system.
The findings could lead to potential treatments for lupus.