After receiving genetically modified immune cells, five adults suffering from lupus saw their symptoms of this autoimmune disease disappear within three months.
About 1.5 million Americans, are currently suffering from Lupus. According to the Lupus Foundation of America. It occurs in women in 90 percent of cases and most often begins between puberty and menopause, with a peak incidence between the ages of 30 and 39.
“This is the first time a treatment has eliminated lupus symptoms in all subjects treated during a 100-day study,” say the authors of the study.
There is still no cure for lupus. Existing treatments can prevent and treat flare-ups and any complications. However, they do not work without side effect in most people with this chronic autoimmune disease.
CD19 receptor cell therapy to fight lupus
Recently, researchers at the University of Nuremberg in Germany decided to conduct a study to test the effectiveness of a cell therapy called “Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T-cells.” This therapy, used to treat certain types of cancer, consists of collecting the patient’s T-lymphocytes (i.e. cells important for the adaptive immune response) and modifying them to attack new targets when reinjected into the body. In lupus, the treatment targets the CD19 receptor, a protein found on the B cells that cause the disease.
To conduct their study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, the researchers recruited five adults with an average age of 22 with severe lupus that affects multiple organs, such as kidneys, heart, lungs and joints. The patients were treated with standard therapies, but these were not effective in controling the disease. As part of the research, the participants received CAR-T cell therapy.
Remission of organ damage
According to the results, about three months after treatment, the patients saw an improvement in their symptoms, including remission of organ damage and the disappearance of disease-related markers. “The drug-free remission was maintained up to 18 months for the first treated patient after administration of the genetically modified T cells and even after the B cells reappeared,” the study states.
.The team also found that the side effects of this cell therapy were mild. “The treatment was well tolerated with only a mild cytokine release syndrome,” the researchers say. Now they plan to investigate whether the immune system has really undergone a profound rearrangement and will behave normally over the next few years. “Longer follow-up of patients is important to see if they experience a long-term remission and are finally cured of lupus,” study author Georg Schett said in a statement.