Monitoring the Course of Lupus


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Doctors may soon find it easier to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment for systemic lupus erythematosus, a potentially life-threatening disease that affects the kidneys and other internal organs, thanks to a new test developed by Prof. Roald Nezlin of the Weizmann Institute's Immunology Department.

In systemic lupus erythematosus, the immune system's "weapons," certain cells and antibodies, attack the body's own tissues. Major damage to body organs is believed to be caused by complexes formed by antibodies and DNA, the genetic material of cells. One of the indications that treatment is effective is a drop in the levels of these complexes in the patient's blood, yet standard tests can measure only the levels of unattached antibodies.

The new Weizmann Institute test, described in the Immunology Methods Manual that will appear in September, solves this problem by measuring the quantity of DNA in the harmful complexes. In this method, microscopic sugar beads absorb the complexes and are deposited on a cellulose membrane. Simple washing procedures are used to break down the complexes and the amount of DNA fragments left behind on the membrane is then measured.

This approach could also be used to measure antibody complexes involved in other autoimmune diseases. A patent application for the new test has been submitted by Yeda Research and Development Co.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.