Einstein researchers and their colleagues have found a key cause of severe kidney complications affecting many patients with lupus, an inflammatory autoimmune disease, and are evaluating a promising treatment for preventing those complications.
Up to half of all lupus patients will develop lupus-related kidney inflammation, known as lupus nephritis. Left unchecked, lupus nephritis can cause irreversible kidney scarring that can result in organ failure and death.
Immune cells known as T cells contribute significantly to lupus kidney damage by infiltrating and inflaming kidney tissue. In a study published online in January 2022 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a team led by senior author Chaim Putterman, M.D., professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology at Einstein, found that these T cells are activated by a protein called ALCAM, which is expressed by various tissues in the body.
In a phase 1 clinical trial, Dr. Putterman and colleagues are treating lupus patients with itolizumab, a novel monoclonal antibody that specifically prevents ALCAM from binding to and activating kidney-damaging T cells. Dr. Putterman is also the associate dean for research at the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.