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Erika Boesen, PhD

Associate Professor
University of Nebraska Medical Center
Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology

Ferroptosis as a novel driver of inflammation in lupus nephritis

Lupus nephritis occurs because the kidneys become inflamed. In the process, cells of the kidneys can die and look abnormal to the immune system.  Instead of efficiently clearing these dead cells away, the immune system can then react causing inflammation and potentially making the kidney damage even worse. Cells can die in several ways, and researchers need to pinpoint what triggers their demise to determine if the cause of death impacts the immune system’s reaction. Our project investigates whether a newly recognized type of cell death called ferroptosis contributes to kidney damage in lupus. Ferroptosis differs from other kinds of cell death because it is caused by iron, which is naturally present in small amounts in the body but can cause damage too. To learn if ferroptosis has a role in lupus, Dr. Boesen and colleagues will see if a chemical that blocks it, liproxstatin-1, reduces kidney damage in mice with lupus. Their project will also ask whether ferroptosis causes additional harm to the kidneys by promoting inflammation. This study will improve understanding of how kidney injury occurs in lupus and could provide the impetus for developing new therapies that block ferroptosis.

What this study means for patients
About half of people with lupus suffer from lupus nephritis, or damage caused when the immune system attacks the kidneys. Dr. Boesen’s study investigates a new possible reason why kidney cells die in lupus, which could lead to new drugs that prevent kidney damage in lupus patients.

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