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April 2, 2013


Stefania Gallucci, MDApproximately 90 percent of people with lupus are women between the ages of 15 and 45. Why so many more women than men suffer from this sometimes painful and debilitating disease is still unknown.

In January, Stefania Gallucci, MD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, was awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Lupus Research Institute to test whether estrogen may play a role in triggering certain immune system cells to overproduce inflammation-driving chemicals known as interferons, which are known to fuel the development of lupus.

“Estrogen has been suspected to contribute to the development of lupus by unbalancing the immune system and tipping it toward excessive activation, but how this happens is unclear,” says Dr. Gallucci, who is the principal investigator of the grant and collaborates with co-investigator Roberto Caricchio, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology and a lupus expert.

“This grant will help us study the intricate chain of molecular interactions triggered by estrogen acting on dendritic cells, which are pivotal immune regulators. If a connection is made, the research could help pave the way for more effective treatments for a disease that currently has no cure.”

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and damage to various parts of the body, including the skin, joints and organs. The most common symptoms include fatigue, skin rashes, swollen joints and ulcers in the mouth or nose. More severe symptoms, such as kidney disease and cognitive deficits, result from sustained damage to the kidneys and brain.

Dr. Gallucci was one of 12 grant recipients selected from nearly 100 applications that were reviewed by the Lupus Research Institute’s scientific advisors. Her work builds upon Temple’s already strong leadership position in the areas of lupus care and research, which are led by the very active Temple Lupus Center and the research-oriented Temple Autoimmunity Center.