CULLEN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

News

Engineering Research Shows Potential for Helping Lupus Patients

By: 

Elena Watts
Tianfu Wu

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease without a cure and without a highly effective treatment option. Many scientists believe that genetics and environmental factors interact to cause immune cells in the human body to overreact and attack healthy cells and organs in the estimated 1.5 million Americans affected by the disease.

“Over time, 50 to 60 percent of lupus patients end up with renal failure caused by kidney disease, and they also have higher incidents of cardiovascular disease and other health issues,” said Tianfu Wu, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering. “So it’s a dangerous disease, and we want to find a cure or at least more potent treatments than exist now.”

Wu earned a $300,000 grant from the Lupus Research Institute, LRI, to continue his pursuit of promising preliminary lupus research. He systematically scanned entire proteins inside cells and determined that one molecule called polo-like kinase 1, or PLK1, might contribute to the onset of the disease.

Wu identified three goals for his LRI grant. First, he intends to uncover a molecular basis for the immune cells that express PLK1 as well as signature pathways used by PLK1 to regulate upstream and downstream molecules. Next, he aims to determine whether or not PLK1 is an effective therapeutic target for treatment of lupus in animal models. Lastly, Wu plans to collaborate with the UT Health Science Center in the Texas Medical Center to translate results found in animal models to human patients.

During the last 50 years, the FDA has approved only one drug, Benlysta, for the specific treatment of lupus. However, in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, the patients who received this drug showed only slightly better results than the patients who received the placebo. Other lupus treatments, such as steroids and antimalarial drugs, were not originally designed to treat the disease, but suppress immune responses and inflammation. Unfortunately, they can also cause a host of problematic side effects with prolonged use.

“Hopefully this LRI-funded research will advance our understanding of the pathogenesis of lupus,” Wu said. “And the blockade of PLK1 could become a novel and effective strategy in conquering this devastating disease.”

Faculty: 

Department: 

Tag: 

Related News Stories

Houston universities team up to boost minorities in academia

Rice University, Texas Southern University and the University of Houston have won a National Science Foundation grant to help underrepresented minorities pursuing academic careers in engineering and science. The principal investigators are, from left: Reginald DesRoches and Canek Phillips of Rice, Pradeep Sharma and Hanadi Rifai of the University of Houston, Yvette Pearson of Rice and Wei Wayne Li of Texas Southern University. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

NSF grant to Rice, UH, Texas Southern will help future science, engineering professors

 

HOUSTON – (Aug. 13, 2019) – Rice University, Texas Southern University (TSU) and the University of Houston (UH) have won a multimillion-dollar grant to help increase the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing academic careers in engineering and science.

Blood Clotting Proteins Discovered as Biomarkers of Lupus Nephritis

Lupus nephritis is one of the most frequent and severe clinical manifestations of lupus, representing a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Photo courtesy: GettyImages

Finding Could Lead to Better Clinical Disease Monitoring

 

University of Houston researcher Chandra Mohan is reporting in Arthritis Research and Therapy that clotting proteins, both those that promote blood clots (pro-thrombotic) and those that work to dissipate them (thrombolytic), are elevated in the urine of patients who suffer from lupus nephritis (LN).

UH Cullen College of Engineering Presents Inaugural Innovator Awards

Venkat Selvamanickam, M.D. Anderson Chair professor of mechanical engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, won the 2019 Career Innovator Award

Faculty, students recognized for innovation, creative entrepreneurial spirit

 

Innovation is the engine that drives all of humanity’s greatest achievements – from the creation of the first wheel to electricity to heart transplants. And it is the entrepreneurial spirit that puts these advances into the hands of the people who can use it the most.