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Archive - Feb 19, 2019


Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Strongly Linked to Imbalances In Gut Microbiome; Five-Fold Excess of Ruminococcus gnavis Found in Patients

The disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) -- marked by the attack on joints, skin, and kidneys by the body's immune system – has been linked, in a new study, to an abnormal mix of bacteria in the gut. This is according to a new study led by scientists at NYU Langone Health/NYU School of Medicine. While bacterial imbalances have been tied to many immune-related diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and some cancers, the authors of the current study say their experiments are the first detailed evidence of a link between bacterial imbalances in the gut and potentially life-threatening forms of SLE. The new study, published online on February 19, 2019 in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, showed that 61 women diagnosed with SLE had roughly five times more gut bacteria known as Ruminococcus gnavus, than 17 women of similar ages and racial backgrounds who did not have the disease and were healthy. Lupus is more common in women than in men. Moreover, study results showed that disease "flares," which can range from instances of skin rash and joint pain to severe kidney dysfunction requiring dialysis, closely tracked to major increases in R. gnavus bacterial growth in the gut, alongside the presence in blood samples of immune proteins called antibodies, specifically shaped to attach to the bacteria. Study participants with kidney flares had especially high levels of antibodies to R. gnavus. The open-access article is titled “Lupus Nephritis Is Linked to Disease-Activity Associated Expansions and Immunity to a Gut Commensal.” The authors say the specific causes of lupus, which affects as many as 1.5 million Americans, are unknown, although many suspect that genetic factors are partly responsible.

Convergence of Technology, Immunotherapy, and Courage Help U of Minnesota Patient Rise Above Life-Threatening Brain Tumor

In May 2018, 29-year-old Burnsville, Minnesota, resident, Adam Donahue, began experiencing unusual symptoms. “I had numbness that ran all the way up my right side to the top of my head,” he said. An MRI confirmed the source of the numbness — glioblastoma, the same kind of aggressive brain tumor that took the lives of Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy. “When you’re in your twenties, it’s not what you think you’ll go through,” said Adam’s wife, Angelica, tearfully. “It’s definitely been a tough time.” But building on a foundation of his own indomitable spirit and courage, plus cutting-edge surgical and therapeutic tools, Adam was given an opportunity few other glioblastoma patients have … to beat the odds. First, he went through radiation and chemotherapy, the standard treatment for glioblastoma. But the tumor continued growing, despite the therapeutic weapons being thrown at it. “It was disheartening when we saw that the treatment wasn’t doing what they thought it would do,” said Adam. Because his brain could not tolerate more radiation and there was no other chemotherapy available, Adam seemed to be out of options – until he was referred to U of Minnesota Neurosurgery Department Head Clark C. Chen, MD, PhD. “Dr. Chen was so calm about everything,” said Angelica. “The way he explained things to us made us feel very comfortable.” “He was super positive and reassuring, but also very honest about what we could expect,” added Adam. “That’s very helpful as a patient.” When Dr. Chen reviewed the case, he thought Adam would be an excellent candidate for a clinical trial that Dr. Chen is leading at Minnesota. The trial, known as DNAtrix, is a Phase 2, multi-center study exploring an innovative two-step treatment for glioblastoma.