Every day, more than 5 million people worldwide struggle with the often debilitating health consequences of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic autoimmune disease capable of damaging virtually any part of the body, including the joints, skin, lungs and brain.
SLE makes the immune system unable to differentiate between antigens and healthy tissue, which causes the body to direct antibodies against the healthy tissue leading to swelling, pain, and tissue damage.
There is currently no cure for SLE, but there are a number of new drugs being researched or in clinical trials. Eight years ago, an international steering committee representing SLE organisations from 13 different nations created a Proclamation – a call to action for governments around the world to increase their financial support for SLE research, awareness and patient services. World Lupus Day has been observed on 10th May every year since 2004.
This year, World Lupus Day coincides with the publication of the first-ever guidelines for the diagnosis and management of lupus nephritis, a potentially fatal kidney disorder that occurs in approximately 50% of lupus patients. Unlike previous guidelines, the new guidelines are specific to lupus nephritis and include newer treatments, techniques for detecting renal disease, as well as treatment of pregnant SLE patients with kidney involvement.
The pathogenesis of this very complicated disease is a particular focus of current research. In a previous issue of Arthritis Research & Therapy, Zickert and colleagues provide important new evidence implicating high-mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1), a prototypic alarmin that is released from activated and dying cells, as a mediator of lupus nephritis. Defining more precisely the role of HMGB1 in lupus will require treatment studies to block the activity of this alarmin in animal models and ultimately patients. Nowling and Gilkeson provide an overview of the current research and knowledge concerning mechanisms of renal injury in both lupus-prone mouse models and human lupus patients.