Dr. Chandra Mohan, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Endowed Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the Cullen College of Engineering, has been given a $300,000 award by the Lupus Research Alliance.
Mohan's proposal, “Urinomics as a Guide to the Renal Immune Landscape in SLE,” was selected as one of the first recipients for the inaugural LRA-BMS Accelerator Award, a collaborative project with sponsoring partner Bristol Myers Squibb. According to a press release issued by LRA, the award provides a collective total of $3 million to support nine cutting-edge lupus research projects over two years. The projects focus on understanding the underlying causes of systemic and cutaneous lupus, unraveling its complexity and identifying novel biomarkers.
Lupus is a chronic, complex autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the LRA, more than 90 percent of people with lupus are women, and lupus most often strikes during the childbearing years of 15 to 45. African Americans, Latinx, Asians and Native Americans are two to three times at greater risk than Caucasians. In lupus, the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, creates antibodies that can attack any part of the body.
In describing his proposal, Mohan said he is attempting to find less invasive ways to monitor lupus.
“The most common, organ-specific form of lupus is known as lupus nephritis, which means inflammation of the kidneys,” he said. “Many patients with lupus nephritis must undergo surgical kidney biopsies to monitor their condition. Since these procedures are invasive and not without risk, other methods to monitor kidney function are needed. Urine tests are already done to monitor some aspects of lupus nephritis, and would be an ideal replacement for kidney biopsies.”
Mohan’s research has already identified several promising markers in the urine of lupus nephritis patients that seem to be associated with clinically active disease. In this study, Mohan will be comparing how urine testing for these markers compares to testing kidney biopsies, in detecting active lupus nephritis and monitoring treatment response.
“We put together two separate findings – one from the published literature, and one from our previous work – to come up with the new hypothesis that will be tested in this grant,” Mohan said.
According to the LRA, Mohan's proposal was chosen for its promise in evaluating lupus biomarkers, and the potential of monitoring lupus nephritis in a less invasive way.
“Dr. Mohan’s research has identified and will test the effectiveness of markers in the urine of lupus patients to diagnose lupus nephritis and monitor its treatment. This approach may reduce the need for invasive surgical kidney biopsies,” the organization wrote.
Mohan's research will be conducted from December 1, 2020 through November 30, 2022.