More ‘natural’ treatment may offer lupus relief

Lupus affects more than a million people in the United States, and this progressive immune system disease is two to three times more prevalent among…

Plant-derived compound ‘may effectively treat lupus with fewer side effects.’ (Shutterstock )

Lupus affects more than a million people in the United States, and this progressive immune system disease is two to three times more prevalent among women of color, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

SEE ALSO: Lupus may end up saving lives

There is no cure for lupus, and current medications are designed to provide relief, but also come with a fair share of undesirable side-effects.

Many lupus sufferers are faced with the difficult decision to deal with lupus symptoms or medication side-effects such as weight gain, increased risk for infection and increased risk for blood clots. Now, however, experts feel they are on their way to developing a more natural lupus treatment.

The compound is called CDDO, and it is a synthetic, plant-derived substance that has been shown to suppress the multiple steps of lupus development in rodent models, including the onset of kidney disease. According to Chandra Mohan, lead researcher from the UH Cullen College of Engineering, CDDO is currently being compared to commercial lupus steroids which suppress the immune system.

“The development of lupus is a two-step reaction. First, the immune system develops antibodies that attack the body’s own DNA, then that activated immune system attacks the kidneys,” Mohan said in a statement. “We found that CDDO may block both of these steps. The most exciting part of this research is that CDDO is originally plant-derived, so it’s relatively natural and carries less chance of side effects. That’s a very important point, because many of the current therapeutic agents being used for lupus have significant side effects. As far as we have tested in these experiments, we found that the CDDO compound had no known side effects. Additionally, compared to many other test compounds we’ve previously tried for treating lupus, this one appears to be much more effective.”

The goal is to prove CDDO is not immunosupressive as are traditional medications, which must supress the immune system to prevent it from attacking the body. Even if the new plant-derived medication is found to have that similar effect on the body, however, experts say it will still be safer than current lupus medications.

SEE ALSO: Lupus Awareness Month: The latest discoveries

Lupus occurs when the body’s immune system starts attacking healthy tissue, and approximately 40 percent of lupus patients develop what is called lupus nephritis, inflammation of the kidneys that causes damage and impairs function. The Lupus Foundation of America indicates between 10-15 percent of people with lupus will die prematurely due to complications of lupus such as nephritis or secondary infection.

The development of a lupus treatment that not only helps prevent nephritis but also doesn’t weaken the immune system would help even more individuals lead normal lives with this disease.

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