Autoimmune diseases the target of new research

Rhianna Lindop and Professor Tom Gordon
Rhianna Lindop and Professor Tom Gordon

A revolutionary medical breakthrough by researchers at Flinders University could pave the way to a cure for two debilitating autoimmune diseases.

PhD student Rhianna Lindop has developed a world-first technique in conjunction with Flinders proteomics experts Dr Georgia Arentz and Dr Tim Chataway to analyse a type of antibody that contributes to the disease progression of lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome, resulting in vital new information that could ultimately lead to targeted therapies.

Lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome are autoimmune diseases caused when the body mistakenly considers healthy tissue to be a harmful substance and, as a result, produces antibodies that actually attack the body’s own organs.

“We all have proteins in our body but in people with autoimmune diseases the body recognises these ‘self’ proteins to be foreign and responds to them by producing antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissues and organs,” Ms Lindop said.

“Usually when you’re sick the body produces antibodies to fight off the infection but it has the opposite effect in people with autoimmune diseases,” she said.

Using a mass spectrometry machine, the researchers have – for the first time – analysed the antibody’s molecular structure in 10 patients with lupus and Sjogren’s to determine its sequence at a “protein level” rather than just on the genomic, or DNA scale, as previous research has done.

The findings have shown that all patients with the particular antibody demonstrated a common molecular signature.

“People always thought these antibodies were too complex to characterise but we found that the antibody was restricted and common to all of the patients and specified by unique features,” Ms Lindop, who is being supervised by Flinders Professor Tom Gordon, said.

“This means that we can now focus on developing novel targeted therapies aimed at removing the antibody in people with lupus or Sjogren’s – and the same research could also be applied to other antibodies associated with other autoimmune diseases.”

With no cure for the two conditions, Ms Lindop said her groundbreaking research could lead to a “next generation of diagnostics and therapeutics”.

“Current immunosuppressive treatments are aimed at reducing the effects of the disease but they don’t actually alter the antibody so this research could allow us to develop a drug that specifically targets the antibody,” she said.

“It’s really exciting because it fits into the bench to bedside concept – we’re doing research at the bench that actually translates to the hospital bed to improve lives.”

Ms Lindop was a recent winner in Flinders University’s Best Paper Award, a new initiative which aims to recognise, reward and promote excellence in student research.

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11 thoughts on “Autoimmune diseases the target of new research

  1. I have been recently diagnosed with lupus. If there are any clinical trials I would like to participate. I have known I had an autoantibody in my blood for over 15 years and tried to get drs to find out what it was but not until recently when my pain levels became extreme did they do anything about it. Please consider me in trials!!!

  2. “ this research could allow us to develop a drug that specifically targets the antibody…”

    No rush, but …. are we there yet? 😉
    This is the best news I’ve heard in Autoimmune research in the last 3 years.

  3. This is so exciting! Best news I’ve heard in a while. I’ve had lupus all my life, when the time arises for trials I would love to be considered and included 🙂

  4. i too would like to express my interest in your esearch and would like to apply next trials you do..congrats and thankyou,thankyou so much…after the Benlysta being rejected today,i needed another lifeline to hope for

  5. Great news, if the research is expanded to include Scleroderma I would be happy to be a subject for the trials.

  6. My sister has lupus, and I have auto immune related issues, and my 2 young children have shown positive for ANA in a recent blood test. I am really interested in this research. Great news.

  7. I was under the impression that we already had medications that target the antibodies and their proteins eg methotrexate, leflunomide. Is this article saying that the researchers have something better (more efficient?) than these DMARDs (disease modifying autorheumatic drugs)?

  8. I have Sjogren’s syndrome, with the current treatment limited to palliative care only, any news of a breakthrough to a cure is music to all of us with autoimmune diseases. Kudos to the team for all your excellent work.

  9. Diana, drugs like methotrexate inhibit the production of DNA, RNA and proteins. The inhibition is general, not targeted. That’s why the drugs can have many side effects, for example in cancer treatment methotrexate is used in high doses as a chemotherapy, and unfortunately can have all of the usual side effects.

  10. I was diagnosed with lupus 5 years ago. So far it hasn’t affected my way of life. However, my ANA count is up in the 800’s. I would like to be involved kn this trial. I would also like to know how I can gk about leaving my body to medical research so that young doctors to be can study and hopefully find cures for autoimmune diseases.

  11. The cause of Sjogren’s syndrome remains unknown, but research suggests that it is triggered by a combination of genetic, environmental and possibly hormonal factors. It is believed that some people are more vulnerable to the condition when they are born and that certain events, such as a viral or bacterial infection, can trigger the problems with the immune system.,’*:

    Catch ya later

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