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Barbara J. Vilen, PhD

Associate Professor
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Microbiology and Immunology

Cross Sectional and Longitudinal Studies of Immune Complexes in SLE

The clearance of dying cells is critical for the immune system to function properly, and the body’s inability to properly dispose of these cells has been implicated in lupus. Dr. Vilen and her group recently discovered that defects in the disposal of dead cells leads to the accumulation of antigens and the subsequent production of autoantibodies to these antigens, and that this promotes many of the disease symptoms associated with lupus in mice. In their new research, they will evaluate whether lupus patients exhibit this defect in the disposal of dead cells. They will enroll patients with both mild to severe disease and assess whether they are able to properly dispose of dying cells. In addition, they will determine whether there is a correlation between the increased disposal of dying cells and a decrease in disease activity.


What this study means for people with lupus

Dr. Vilen is exploring if lupus flares can be caused by the production of autoantibodies that occurs when the body is unable to properly dispose of dead and dying cells. If so, finding a way to correct this defect will provide a potential target for new treatments.

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