Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.

If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Biological Chemistry

Drugs That Regulate Metabolism May Treat Lupus

Autoimmune Disease: Immune cells in mice with lupus symptoms have overactive metabolisms, study shows

by Michael Torrice
February 19, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 8

CORRECTION: On Feb 27, 2015, this story was updated to correct the direction of pH change in T cells from mice with lupus symptoms. Lupus cells had lower pH levels.

In a patient with the autoimmune disease lupus, immune cells attack the body’s own tissues as if they were an invading pathogen. This can lead to damage to the skin, joints, kidneys, and even the brain.

Now a team of immunologists reports that some of these errant immune cells have an overactive metabolism, and that inhibiting two key metabolic pathways can reverse lupus symptoms in mice (Sci. Transl. Med. 2015, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa0835).

The study provides compelling evidence that a combination of metabolic inhibitors could be an effective lupus therapy, say Manan M. Mehta and Navdeep S. Chandel of Northwestern University in a perspective they wrote about the study.

Before testing these inhibitors, Laurence M. Morel at the University of Florida and her colleagues first studied the metabolism of CD4+ T cells. In lupus, the immune cells command B cells to produce ­autoantibodies, which target the body’s own tissue.

When T cells are on the hunt for pathogens, they ramp up their metabolism so they can proliferate quickly. Morel hypothesized that in lupus patients, overly aggressive T cells would also have an overly active metabolism.

To test the idea, the researchers looked at two pathways involved in glucose metabolism: glycolysis and oxidation that occurs in a cell’s energy-generating mitochondria. Compared with T cells from healthy mice, lupus cells had lower pH levels and consumed more oxygen, signs of high rates of glycolysis and mitochondrial oxidation, respectively.

Morel and her team then tested two metabolic inhibitors on lupus mice: 2-deoxyglucose, which inhibits glucose metabolism, and metformin, which slows electron transport in the oxidation pathway in mitochondria. Lupus mice that received the two compounds in their drinking water showed a reversal of symptoms over three months. Levels of autoantibodies dropped, kidney health improved, and T-cell activation returned to normal.

Metformin is already approved by the Food & Drug Administration for treating type 2 diabetes, but Morel says she needs to collect more data on the inhibitors and their effects on the immune system before starting a clinical trial in lupus patients.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Ramesh Pappu, M.D (February 20, 2015 9:23 AM)
Have you considered looking at large prospective cohorts of diabetic patients on oral agents such as metformin and investigate the incidence of systemic lupus. That will be another way at looking at this interesting concept.
Torrie kolbeck (May 9, 2017 3:22 PM)
I think that is a great place to start. I am a type 1 diabetic who also has lupus. I have brittle diabetes and so I suggested trying metformin in order to help with my Blood Glucose numbers. Then I read about using metformin to treat lupus. I am always open to being in a trial. Please consider this and feel free to contact me. Thank you
Norma Patricia Gallegos Ríos (September 3, 2015 11:42 AM)
tengo 46 años de los cuales 8 padeciendo el lupus que inicio en mis articulaciones impidiéndome trabajar el lupus llego hasta mi cabeza provocando convulciones tuve derrame de pleura por lo cual me tuvieron que someter a quimioterapias que me estabilizaron aproximadamente dos años y ahorita regresaron los problemas con las convulsiones con las articulaciones y mi ojo izquierdo no deja brincar me gustaria que pudiera ser yo una de las personas en las que experimentarán o probaran la cura del lupus por que se que será un éxito para poder disfrutar a mis hijas y poder tener un mejor futuro

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment