Get Into the Loop


Fueling Discovery in California and Beyond

With a grant from the Lupus LA-backed Lupus Research Institute, Greg Lemke, PhD, at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla has discovered a new and powerful molecular switch that controls the immune systemís inflammatory response—a finding that opens the door to halting the destruction of lupus.

Southern California and the nation are witnessing discoveries that may change the way people with lupus are diagnosed, treated, and live their lives as a result of bold, dynamic questions being asked by Lupus LA-supported Lupus Research Institute scientists.

In lupus, the immune system makes a fundamental—some describe it as a ‘stupid’ mistake—turning on the body rather than defending it from outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Brilliant and high-risk yet potentially revealing hypotheses as to why this happens are being posed by such scientists as Greg Lemke, PhD (left), Betty Tsao, PhD, at UCLA (what genes underpin male lupus?), and Bevra Hahn, MD, at UCLA (can testing for and treating aberrant “pro-inflammatory” HDL cholesterol prevent clogging and hardening arteries in people with lupus?).

“Without Lupus LA’s support, many of the questions posed by these and other Institute-supported grants would almost certainly have withered away and been forgotten.”

– LRI Researcher, Greg Lemke, PhD

Leading Funder of Lupus Research in California

Bevra Hahn, MD, at UCLA, has made key breakthroughs in lupus atherosclerosis with the support of Lupus LA and the Lupus Research Institute.

The roster of Lupus Research Institute innovation spans the length of the state of California, from San Diego to the Bay Area, and the spectrum of lupus complications—from basic science to explorations in people.

Along with multiple investigations in southern California, research is underway up the coast. At the University of California at Berkeley, Gregory Barton, PhD, is tinkering with a specialized protein disposal system in the body to see if failures trigger lupus. At the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), Matthias Wabl, PhD, is testing whether remnants of ancient viruses in the body’s DNA are confusing the body’s immune system and causing the misguided attack of lupus. Also at UCSF, Roland G. Henry, PhD, is wielding brain imaging technology to determine if there are markers of memory or thinking problems in people with lupus.

“California is really a hotbed of research right now,” said 2007 LRI researcher Betty Tsao, PhD, at UCLA. “A place to keep your eye on.”

Lupus LA Launches New Investigator Program

Researchers at the beginning of their careers will have a shot at funding through Lupus LA’s program to begin this year—and people with lupus will have the security and excitement of knowing that a whole new generation of lupus scientists is being trained and encouraged.

Interested MD’s and PhD’s in southern California should visit regularly for information on these grants in spring 2008.

Pictured at left: Maureen McMahon, MD, at UCLA, was a young MD when she received a grant through the Institute and the American College of Rheumatology to work with mentor Bevra Hahn, MD, on heart disease in lupus.

"I strongly encourage other physicians to engage in research," McMahon said. "The constant questioning central to research also has allowed me to approach patient care from a different perspective, and has encouraged me to think of new ways to help my patients.”