Does the protein IL-36 play a role in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?

Disease - Lupus

Lead applicant - Dr Francesca Capon

Organisation - King’s College London

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship 2019

Status of grant - Active from 1 July 2020

Amount of the original award - £158,684.56

Start date - 1 July 2020

Reference - 22506

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

In this project, researchers will explore the role of the protein IL-36 in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Normally, the protein IL-36 helps white blood cells to fight infection. However excessive production of this protein causes skin and joint inflammation. Given that these are key symptoms in SLE, researchers will investigate whether IL-36 controls activity of other proteins which are known to function incorrectly in lupus. The project will also study whether individuals with elevated levels of IL-36 in their blood tend to suffer from more severe lupus symptoms.

Why is this research important? 

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease in which cells of the immune system produce antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues, causing inflammation. In lupus, this can cause joint pain, skin rashes and extreme tiredness, however in some cases lupus can also affect other organs such as the kidney or heart, resulting in more serious complications. SLE treatment mostly relies on anti-inflammatory drugs however this can come with side-effects. For this reason, it is important to develop new treatments to help tackle inflammation caused by lupus.

How will the findings benefit patients?

If a link between IL-36 levels and lupus activity is found, this could provide a new way to monitor disease activity. There may also be potential to develop new treatments that target IL-36 to help control inflammation in lupus patients.