Innovation Radar: How to Detect Increased Risk for Renal Manifestations in SLE (lupus) patients

Patients suffering from the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) develop autoantibodies to chromatin and often to neutrophil proteins as well. As immune complexes of these antibodies can be deposited in kidneys, they contribute to the frequent and dangerous organ manifestation of lupus nephritis.

Recent studies suggest that neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) might act as a source of autoantigens. NETs consist of chromatin as well as granule proteins and play an important role in immune defense after their release from neutrophils to sites of infection. Degradation of NETs is mainly promoted by DNase1 digestion which is impaired in a subset of SLE patients. A strong correlation between NET degradation status and lupus nephritis, e.g. glomerulonephritis, has been shown and therefore offers a new diagnostic method for detecting an increased risk of SLE patients to develop renal manifestations.

Based on these observations, scientists of the German Max Planck Society (MPG) have developed a technology for the assessment of an increased risk in SLE patients for developing renal manifestations – a finding that is not achieved by determination of anti-dsDNA antibody titers.

The technology measures a NET-degradation status upon incubation with a sample of body fluid (e.g. blood or serum) from a SLE patient, whereby a poor NET-degradation corresponds to a higher probability of developing renal manifestations. Protocols for obtaining NETs from healthy donors as well as preparing NETs artificially are provided. Degradation status is assessed by determination of released/present NET-component(s) (e.g. neutrophil elastase) after incubation with a sample from a patient and either by comparison with the results obtained from a healthy donor or a control sample (buffer). Determination of NET-degradation can be achieved by the use of fluorescence spectrometry, ELISA or EIA. An international patent application has been filed.

The technology is available for licensing via Max Planck Innovation.