Researchers uncover link to increased atherosclerosis risk in lupus patients

Jan 27, 2011

Researchers in China have demonstrated interferon-alpha (IFN-a) is associated with increased risk of atherosclerosis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). For the first time, IFN-a priming was shown to promote lipid uptake and foam cell formation—a crucial step in plaque build-up. This activation of the IFN signaling pathway may be linked to the premature atherosclerosis risk in SLE. Full findings of this novel study are available in the February issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology.

SLE or is a chronic, multisystem autoimmune disease that causes wide-spread inflammation in the body and can affect multiple organs. The Lupus Foundation of American estimates that up to 1.5 million Americans and more than 5 million people worldwide have some form of lupus (systemic, discoid, or drug-induced), which occurs more frequently in women. While prior studies have established that SLE patients demonstrated an increased incidence of premature atherosclerosis, they do not explain what may cause the greater cardiovascular risk.

"Although traditional risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus are thought to be important in mediating an increased risk for atherosclerosis in SLE, they fail to adequately explain the higher incidence of atherosclerotic diseases in SLE patients," said Nan Shen, M.D., Director of the Shanghai Institute of Rheumatology at Ren Ji Hospital and lead author of the study. To further investigate the cause of premature atherosclerosis in SLE, researchers recruited 42 patients with lupus and 42 healthy volunteers for their study. Blood samples were taken from all participants and peripheral blood monocytes were isolated and analyzed. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) play an important role in the immune system's ability to fight infection.

Research data suggested that IFN-a priming promoted the formation of macrophage-derived foam cells in SLE patients. Specifically, researchers found macrophage scavenger receptor A (SR-A) expression by IFN-a was associated with enhanced uptake and an increased number of foam cells. The initiating force for the occurrence of atherosclerosis is the accumulation of cholesterol-laden foam cells in the arterial wall. The team also established that expression of SR-A was significantly elevated in PBMCs of lupus patients and was positively correlated with IFN signaling activity.

Dr. Shen concluded, "Our findings further understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of in autoimmune disease and may provide potential therapeutic targets for the prevention and treatment of premature cardiovascular disease in lupus patients."

Explore further: Atypical antipsychotics up renal injury risk in seniors

More information: "Interferon-a priming promotes lipid uptake and macrophage-derived foam cell formation: A novel link between interferon-a and atherosclerosis in lupus." Jia Li, Qiong Fu, Huijuan Cui, Bo Qu, Wen Pan, Nan Shen, Chunde Bao. Arthritis & Rheumatism; Published Online: November 29, 2010 ( DOI:10.1002/art.30165 ); Print Issue Date: February 2011.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rituximab reduces kidney inflammation in patients with lupus

Mar 04, 2009

Treatment with the targeted drug rituximab can significantly benefit some patients with severe lupus nephritis who do not respond to conventional therapy, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Jo ...

Immune cell plays unexpected role in autoimmune disease

Dec 16, 2010

A new study provides fascinating insight into the underlying pathology associated with the autoimmune disease, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The research, published by Cell Press in the December issue ...

Recommended for you

UN Ebola czar heads to West Africa

2 hours ago

The UN's new pointman on Ebola said Tuesday he will travel to West Africa this week to shore up health services in the four countries hit by the worst-ever outbreak of the virus.

User comments : 0