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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Stem Cell Therapy

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Stem Cell Therapy

Systemic lupus erythematosus, also simply referred to as lupus, is an autoimmune condition that can affect various tissues and organs of the body. An autoimmune condition is one where the body’s own immune system produces antibodies that attack and damage normal tissues and organs such as the brain, lungs, heart, kidneys, blood cells, skin, and the joints.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact causes of lupus are still not clearly understood but healthcare professionals think that the condition may develop due to a combination of factors involving genetics and the environment.

Some individuals seem to have a genetic predisposition to developing lupus when they come into contact with triggers from the environment. These triggers may include:

  • Infections, especially those that are viral in nature can cause lupus to develop or relapse.
  • Exposure to sunlight can trigger lupus to affect the skin.
  • Certain types of anti-epileptic medications, drugs used to manage high blood pressure, and certain antibiotics can trigger lupus.

Certain factors can increase the risk of developing lupus and these include the following:

  • Being female increases the chances of developing autoimmune conditions in general.
  • Being of African-American, Asian-America, or Hispanic descent.
  • Most commonly, lupus affects those between the ages of 15 and 45 although it can affect individuals of all ages.

Treatment and Lifestyles Changes

There is, unfortunately, no cure for lupus or any other autoimmune conditions. However, there are medications, therapies, and suggestions that can help to reduce the signs and symptoms caused by the condition and to prevent relapses.

The medications used to manage lupus will depend on the signs and symptoms the affected individual presents with. They may include the following:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories – these medications include ibuprofen and naproxen and help to reduce any inflammation and this helps to decrease pain experienced by the affected individual.
  • Corticosteroids – steroids such as prednisone help to reduce inflammation caused by lupus. Potent steroids such as methylprednisolone are used where organs such as the brain and kidneys are affected by the condition.
  • Antimalarial drugs – hydroxychloroquine can be used to manipulate the immune system to help reduce the risk of flare-ups of lupus.
  • Immunosuppressants – serious cases of lupus can be managed by using medications that suppress the immune system. These medications are reserved for such cases as they can produce side effects such as increasing the risk of developing infections.
  • Biologics – these intravenous medications are used in resistant cases of lupus where the mentioned medications have not been effective.

Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy has been clinically studied in patients with lupus where adipose (fat) tissue is grafted from the affected individual via liposuction and stem cells are derived from this tissue. The stem cells are then injected back into the patient and are used in cases where lupus has affected organs of the body.

Stem cells in lupus work as follows:

  • They have anti-inflammatory properties thereby helping to reduce the damage caused by the antibodies that attack the normal tissues and organs.
  • They can change into any other cell of the body which means that the stem cells can repair tissues and organs that have been damaged due to the inflammatory process caused by lupus.

Benefits of this type of stem cell therapy are:

  • The patient receives their own stem cells and doesn’t need to match with anyone else to receive donor stem cells since theirs are essentially healthy.
  • There’s no need to receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy to clear the bone marrow which reduces the risk of infection.

Further research is required to assess the benefits and any risks of stem cell therapy but current studies do seem to be promising.

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