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Jeremy Tilstra, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine
University of Pittsburgh
Medicine, Immunology

Examining the Role of T cell Exhaustion in Lupus Pathogenesis

In people with lupus, T cells invade the kidneys and other organs and trigger damage. However, Dr. Tilstra’s team has found that some of these T cells have lost the ability to attack—researchers describe them as “exhausted.” In this project they aim to determine whether the cells wear out before or after they enter the kidneys and whether the kidneys cause this change. They will also ask whether the number of exhausted T cells in patients’ kidneys predicts how severe their lupus symptoms will be. Understanding how T cells become exhausted may enable scientists to design treatments that tire out harmful immune cells and reduce the damage to patients’ kidneys and other organs.

What this study means for patients
Immune cells called T cells injure the kidneys and other organs in patients with lupus. But some of the T cells in the organs appear to be worn out and can no longer cause problems. Dr. Tilstra’s work will figure out how these cells become “tired,” so researchers can develop new treatments to exhaust harmful immune cells while sparing the immune cells that protect against infections.

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