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Groh wins $300,000 for lupus research

Dr. Veronika Groh and colleagues find data indicating that a novel subset of immune-system cells may be deficient in active lupus

April 13, 2009
Garrett Booth, Dr. Zhenpeng, Dai, land Drs. Veronika Groh and Anne Stevens.

From left, Garrett Booth, research technician; Dr. Zhenpeng, Dai, lead author; and Drs. Veronika Groh and Anne Stevens.

Photo by Dean Forbes

Dr. Veronika Groh, Clinical Research Division, is the recipient of a three-year, $100,000 per year grant from the Lupus Research Institute. The grant will fund the study of a novel immunosuppressive CD4 T-cell subset in lupus patients.

In a paper describing aspects of the study, senior authors Groh, Dr. Thomas Spies and colleagues, including Dr. Anne Stevens of Seattle Children’s Center for Immunity and Immunotherapy, report that the normally rare CD4 T-cell population is expanded in patients with juvenile-onset lupus and may have the ability to significantly reduce disease activity in these patients. The findings appear in the March online edition of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory, connective tissue disease that can affect the joints and many organs, including the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys and nervous system. In lupus, the body’s immune system becomes autoimmune, which means it attacks it own tissues. In healthy individuals, such attacks are prevented and the immune system kept in check by a T-cell population termed regulatory T-cells (Treg). In lupus, these T-cells do not work properly. The CD4 T-cells, discovered by Groh and colleagues, have Treg-like functions and might serve as a backup to the impaired regulatory T-cells in lupus; these novel CD4 T-cells could provide a new way to treat this disease.

Study authors include Clinical Research Division’s Drs. Zhenpeng Dai and Cameron Turtle; Garrett Booth, research technician; and Drs. Stanley Riddell and Theodore Gooley. Read the study by visiting http://jem.rupress.org/cgi/content/abstract/jem.20081648v1.

The LRI is the nation’s only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to novel research in lupus. LRI grants are highly competitive, this year 11 of 97 applications were chosen for funding.

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