OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Neelakshi Jog, Ph.D., has received a two-year, $300,000 grant from the Lupus Research Alliance to explore the role of a common white blood cell in lupus.

Lupus occurs when the immune system becomes unbalanced, leading to the development of autoantibodies and chronic inflammation that damage the body’s organs and tissues. Lupus sufferers have periods of flares and remission, and it can affect the skin, kidneys, lungs, joints and cardiovascular system.

“Unfortunately, little is known about how the immune system goes out of control and causes these disease flares,” said Jog, a research assistant member in OMRF’s Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Research Program.

This grant will allow Jog to investigate the most common type of white blood cells, called neutrophils, which have been identified as a possible trigger for lupus.

“We know neutrophils play a role in the disease, but we don’t understand what that role is,” Jog said.

The main function of neutrophils is to kill bacteria, acting as your body’s first line of defense. When you have an infection, there is an increased need for neutrophils, she said, and to meet that demand, they are rapidly produced by a process called emergency granulopoiesis.

These emergency neutrophils are different and more efficient at wiping out bacteria, but as a less-mature form of neutrophil, they can cause damage if not controlled quickly.

Jog and her team will test whether or not these immature neutrophils promote inflammation and worsen or contribute to lupus flares.

“This research could reveal possible drug targets to block the negative effects of these white blood cells in the disease,” she said. “If we can control this process, we can regulate the disease better.”

The Lupus Research Alliance is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research.

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