Breakthrough paves way for curing auto-immune disease

Sydney: A revolutionary breakthrough could finally pave the way to cure practically incurable and debilitating auto-immune diseases such as lupus and Sjogren`s syndrome.

These auto-immune diseases are caused by the body mistakenly targeting healthy tissue as unhealthy ones, producing antibodies that attack the body`s own organs.

Doctoral student Rhianna Lindop from Flinders University has developed a technique with Flinder`s proteomics (study of proteins) experts Georgia Arentz and Tim Chataway to analyse a type of antibody that contributes to the progression of lupus and Sjogren`s syndrome.

Systemic lupus erythematosus, often abbreviated to SLE or lupus, is a systemic auto-immune disease that can affect any part of the body. In Sjogren`s syndrome, immune cells attack and destroy the exocrine glands that produce tears and saliva.

"We all have proteins in our body but in people with auto-immune diseases the body recognises these `self` proteins to be foreign and responds to them by producing antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissues and organs," Lindop said, according to a Flinders statement.

Using a mass spectrometry machine, the researchers have - for the first time - analysed the antibody`s molecular structure in lupus and Sjogren`s patients to determine its sequence at a "protein level" rather than just on the genomic, or DNA scale, as previous research has done.

The findings have shown that all patients with the particular antibody demonstrated a common molecular signature.

With no cure for the two conditions, Lindop said her groundbreaking research could lead to a "next generation of diagnostics and therapeutics".