Lupus Link Minnesota awards lupus research grants to University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic

The Lupus Link Minnesota Board of Directors announces grants to fund lupus research at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic. As an independent nonprofit organization, Lupus Link Minnesota funds research and researchers to find a cure and more effective treatments for people living with lupus. 

A total of $70,000 has been awarded to projects by two Minnesota-based researchers in order to pursue these efforts. Those scientists and their projects are described below:

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Hu Zeng, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
Assistant Professior, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Department of Immunology
Exploring the funaction of mTORC2 in the lymphocytes from systemic lupus erythematosus patients

The relative shortage of effective treatment options for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) illuminates the urgent need to identify novel therapeutic targets. One of the hallsmarks of SLE is the over-activation of cells producing antibodies that attack patients’ own tissues. Recent research shows that a specialized cell population, called follicular helper T (Tfh) cells, promote the production of these self-tissue targeting antibodies. This Mayo research group and others have recently demonstrated a novel mechanism that controls Tfh cells. This pathway, termed mechanistic target of rapmycin complex-2 (mTORC2), maintains the metaboloism and enhances the ability of the Tfh cells to stimulate antibody production. Thus, mTORC2 may serve as a new target for SLE treatment. Whether mTORC2 plays a role in the pathogenesis of SLE has not been explored. The proposed study builds upon the research team’s previous work on the biological funcations of mTORC2 signlaing in Tfh cells. This grant will allow the research team to characterize the mTORC2 pathway in SLE patients’ immune systems and explore the potential of targeting mTORC2 for SLE treatment.

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Daniel L. Mueller, M.D., University of Minnesota
Professor of Medicine and Director, Division of Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases
Adenosine 2a receptor suppression of the Tfh-dependent autoimmune arthritis

Arthritic diseases such as systemic lupus erthematosus (SLE) arise when T and B cells collaborate for the production of autoantibodies. The regulation of this adnormal collaborate remains uncertain. This research team has discovered that activiation of adenosine receports on T cells can prevent them from collaborating effecienitaly with B cells. Furthermore, preliminary data suggest that adenosine can prevent arthritis. This grant will support the investigation of whether adenosine receptor ligation on T cells can inhbit autoreactive T and B cell collaboration and ameliorate autoimmune arthritis. Success in these proposed experiments would offer a new therapeutic approach to treating lupus arthritis.

“We are proud to support these projects,” said Dr. Barbara Schillo, Chair of the Board of Directors of Lupus Link Minnesota. “They demonstrate the ground-breaking research being tackled at Minnesota institutions, pursuing answers in areas that haven’t previously been explored. It’s our hope that these grants will advance the search for novel treatments for lupus.”

In addition to annual research grants, Lupus Link Minnesota provides undergraduates interested in basic or clinical research an opportunity to work with an established faculty researcher at various institutions, through its Student Summer Fellowship Program. Applications for this summer are being accepted now through February 2.

Both research programs are made possible through an established endowment, The Susan Barry Meckstroth Endowment for Lupus Research.