Monash medical students’ research paves the way for improved treatments for lupus

Latest research at Monash University reveals a particular protein found in the blood of lupus patients may be a potential biomarker of kidney disease.

Co-authored by final year Monash medical students Rachel Mende and Emily Lin, both supervised by Dr Tali Lang, the study was published last week in Frontiers in Immunology.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or lupus, is an incurable systemic autoimmune illness, which predominantly affects women of child-bearing age.

“This study is the largest to date which examines clinical associations between SLE disease parameters and two particular blood proteins: IL-18 and IL-1β,” said first author Rachel, who undertook the research as a BMedSc(Hons) student at the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS).

“We measured these two proteins in the blood of lupus patients and found that increased serum IL-18 was associated with the presence of kidney disease and irreversible organ damage while there was no association between serum IL-1β and SLE clinical outcomes.”

Postdoctoral Research Fellow from the Rheumatology Research Group, Dr Fabien Vincent said the data suggests that serum IL-18 and IL-1β have different clinical implications in lupus.

“Future research investigating whether lupus patients with kidney disease may benefit from a drug targeting IL-18 would be of value,” said Dr Vincent, co-lead author on the paper.

The research team thanks all the patients involved in the study, and acknowledges the Australian Lupus Registry and Biobank for providing the clinical data sets and patient samples.