The Influence of Leptin on Regulatory T cells in Murine Lupus
The immune system is made of tissues and cells that have the task to protect against disease-causing pathogens or tumors. To function properly, the immune system needs to discriminate between foreign agents and the body’s own cells. When this process does not function properly and the immune system attacks self tissues as if they were foreign, autoimmune disease ensues. This is the case of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), an autoimmune disease that affects various tissues and organs including the kidneys, lungs, heart and brain. Lupus is a disease more common in women than in men, and both genetic and environmental factors are implicated in its pathogenesis.
Regulatory T cells have an important role in preventing autoimmune disease, and are numerically and functionally reduced in lupus. It was recently shown that the activity of the regulatory T cells can be negatively controlled (at least in part) by leptin, a hormone that not only regulates metabolism but also plays an important role in the pathogenesis of several autoimmune diseases.
In this project, Dr. Lourenço will investigate how leptin influences the function of regulatory T cells in lupus. Her aim is to develop strategies of leptin-based modulation of these cells in lupus. Given the importance of regulatory T cells in controlling autoimmunity, these studies have the potential to define new approaches for improved management of lupus and other autoimmune diseases.