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OU Researcher Developing New Approach for Early Intervention of Lupus

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February 1, 2019

OU Researcher Developing New Approach for Early Intervention of Lupus

Si Wu

NORMAN—A University of Oklahoma researcher, Si Wu, and collaborators from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Indiana University, are developing new strategies leading to diagnosis and early intervention of Lupus, an autoimmune disease that may affect up to 1.5 million Americans. The National Institutes of Health is funding the OU research with a $2 million grant over a five-year period.

“We are providing the first snapshot of autoantibody development in Lupus patients by developing a novel detection method using a top-down mass spectrometry approach for identifying disease-specific autoantibodies quickly,” said Wu, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, OU College of Arts and Sciences. “This may lead to novel biomarkers and a foundation for new strategies for the early detection of Lupus. To our knowledge, we are the first to apply this approach in understanding how autoantibodies become pathogenic.”

“In this autoimmune disease, the body responds adversely to complex molecules that the body produces. In order to better understand the progression of this disease and initiate possible therapies, we need to better understand how these biomolecules may change over time. Advances in detection and identification methodologies are needed to address this and related autoimmune diseases,” said Ronald L. Halterman, academic chair, OU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, OU College of Arts and Sciences.

Ken Smith, OMRF investigator, is purifying antibodies from samples of over 50 patients from Oklahoma and surrounding states for this research. In collaboration with rheumatologists Judith James and Eliza Chakravarty, these longitudinal samples will come from well-characterized Lupus patients collected over several decades allowing for evaluation of the disease over time. Xiaowen Liu, associate professor in the School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, will work with Wu on the development of the needed software tools.

Wu’s research team has complementary expertise on top-down mass spectrometry, antibody immunity and bioinformatics. The team will look at antibodies of specific antoantigens to determine how the properties of the antibodies in individual patients over time and across patients are related. The researchers will link antibody clones with disease activity to determine how they change with the disease progression and various medications.

The research team is providing the first quantitative top-down platform for characterizing these autoantibodies. After development, the top-down autoantibody characterization platform can be easily adapted to other autoimmune diseases, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome. For more information about this NIH-funded research, “Quantitative Analysis of Serum Autoantibody Repertories in Systematic Lupus Erythematosus,” contact Professor Wu at