New Discovery Could Lead to New Treatments for Anemia in Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Lupus, and Malaria

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Lupus, and Malaria are diseases which currently have limited treatment options. But a new discovery by researchers at the Benaroya Research Institute (BRI) could potentially lead to new therapies for these patients.

The Discovery

Basically, a research team at BRI uncovered a cell which eats red blood cells in those with macrophage activation syndrome (MAS). This syndrome eventually leads to anemia and causes swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fevers, severe organ dysfunction, and even death. Anemia is present in both autoimmune conditions and malaria.

The team has been researching this condition for five years, but they never anticipated that one unique type of cell would be responsible for it all. This type of cell has been named inflammatory hemophagocytes (iHPCs). In healthy individuals, these cells work to eat bacteria and help prevent the body from infection. But, for some autoimmune and viral conditions, these cells eat red blood cells instead, causing low iron in the blood, or anemia.

What it means

Obviously the first step to uncovering new treatments for any condition, is uncovering exactly what is causing the disease. Now that we know what causes MAS and other forms of anemia, we can begin to dive into ways to combat it.

This discovery is so exciting because it crosses disease states. The same exact signals cause IHPCs to eat red blood cells in autoimmune conditions and malaria and in both cases, IHPCs function the same way.

This new discovery has been published in Science. Researchers hope that it could lead to the development of new treatments for MAS specifically for children with Malaria, systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and lupus.

Next Steps

BRI says that they plan to collaborate with pediatric rheumatologists and pediatricians to investigate IHPCs presence in children with anemia related to an autoimmune condition. They will also examine the cells presence in healthy individuals. The goal is to use this new discovery to find potential targets for new therapies as quickly as possible.

The company has already begun to evaluate malaria infected blood.

BRI explains that, like all science, this finding was only possible because of a collaborative effort. They worked with institutions across the country in this investigation, and they plan to continue to do so as they try to find a treatment.

You can read more about this new discovery and the impact it could have on future therapies for anemia within juvenile idiopathic arthritis, lupus, malaria, and other conditions here.


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