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The Journal of Immunology has published the findings of Virginia Tech researchers who have studied plasmacytoid dendritic cells and their ability to induce type I alpha interferon (IFN-α) in lupus. (Citation source: http://buff.ly/1MceeCl)
An IFN-α "signature" is often found in patiens with active lupus. Moreover, cancer patients treated with IFN-α often develop drug-induced lupus, indicating an important role for this protein in lupus.
Studying murine lupus, investigators found high-purity pDCs sorted from lupus mice were capable of inducing large amount of IFN-α and disease attenuation in early lupus. However, late-stage lupus mice were found to be defective in producing IFN-α. Hence, the effects of IFN-α and pDCs on the pathogenesis of lupus may be evident only in early or pre-lupus.
These results suggest pDCs do not function the same throughout the disease course and lose the ability to produce IFN-α in late-stage lupus mice. Thus, targeting IFN-α therapeutically may not be an effective strategy in lupus patients with well established disease.