Immunol Res. 2008;41(1):79-86

Autoimmune disease: is it a disorder of the microenvironment?

Authors: El-Badri NS, Hakki A, Ferrari A, Shamekh R, Good RA

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a common systemic autoimmune disease that involves several vital organs including the cardiovascular system, joints, and kidneys. The pathology is characterized by accumulation of autoreactive lymphocytes that attack the patients’ own tissues, secretion of autoantibodies and deposition of immune complexes in vital organs. Chronic widespread inflammation is the hallmark of SLE and the target of current therapy. According to recent theories, intonating immune circuits of inflammatory cytokines and immune cells constitute highly specialized targets for SLE therapy, which nonetheless consists for the most part of anti-inflammatory medications and cytotoxic drugs. For advanced autoimmune disorders, cell therapy aiming at introducing “healthy” stem cells has been promising, keeping in mind that in its current state, stem cell therapy is reserved for the most advanced diseases refractory to traditional therapy. Ongoing studies in our laboratories examined the role of the bone marrow microenvironment, in particular, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in the etiopathogenesis of SLE. Specifically, we are testing the hypothesis that, in human SLE mouse model, marrow MSCs are defective structurally and functionally. Preliminary data indicate that structural and functional defects in MSC population from an autoimmune mouse model for human SLE may contribute to this pathology and consequently present a target for cell therapy.

PMID: 18506645 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]