Mark Walter, Ph.D., professor of microbiology at UAB, has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Lupus Research Institute, one of 12 awarded this year. With this research, Walter will be researching type 1 interferon molecules responsible for the overactive immune response in lupus that causes damage to tissue and organs.
People with lupus produce large amounts of type 1 interferons (IFNαs), a family of 12 protein molecules that prompts the body to attack itself and damage otherwise healthy tissue and organs. While blocking IFNα can apparently reduce lupus symptoms—and is being tested in clinical trials—it’s unclear exactly which in the family of IFNα molecules is/are responsible for lupus complications.
With this funding, Walter will harness a novel combination of technologies to directly examine human lupus samples and identify the responsible interferon molecules. If successful, his research will open the door to more precisely targeting anti-IFN therapies in lupus and sparing patients unnecessary drug treatment.