IDIBELL researchers discover that a molecule of blood is effective against autoimmune kidney disease


Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. When it causes inflammation in the kidneys (called lupus nephritis), they cannot properly remove waste from the blood or control body fluids. Without treatment, nephritis can lead to scarring and permanent damage of the kidneys, and possible final renal failure. In this case, patients need to undergo dialysis and possibly a kidney transplant. Currently, lupus nephritis patients are treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressors, which are unsatisfactory and have side effects. Therefore, new therapeutic agents with higher potency, selectivity and safety are needed.


The research group, on immuno-inflammatory processes and gene therapy of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), has published in the prestigious journal Kidney International, a study that demonstrates the immunomodulatory therapeutic capacity of a molecule present in our blood, called C4BP (beta-). These results, validated in two animal models of lupus nephritis, represent a very promising advance for patients. Also, the applicability of this discovery is being evaluated in other autoimmune disorders, such as colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Until now, satisfactory results have been obtained.


Autoimmune diseases are caused by a malfunction of the immune system, which attacks the own cells and tissues becoming an aggressor instead of a protector. The complement pathway is one of the components of the innate system. This, among other functions, protects the body from pathogenic organisms. The IDIBELL team, led by Dr. Josep M. Aran, has demonstrated a new activity for one of the forms of complement inhibitor protein C4BP (beta-). Specifically, it has been shown that it is able to reprogram myeloid cells (a type of white blood cell), transforming its proinflammatory and immunogenic activity to anti-inflammatory and tolerogenic activity.

The C4BP protein (beta-) can both, be isolated from human serum, or obtained artificially (recombinantly) by culturing eukaryotic cells that express it. In mice that reproduce human lupus nephritis, it has been shown that the administration of C4BP (beta-) greatly improves the symptomatology of the disease, especially when is compared to the therapeutic action of classical immunosuppressants. In addition, it has no side effects and is also effective against dermatitis, another condition derived from lupus.


Researchers from Bellvitge University Hospital, referents in nephrology, have participated in the recently published work. Recognized researchers from the University of Lund (Sweden), the Center for Biological Research (CSIC) of Madrid and the Cyber ​​of Rare Diseases (CIBERER) have also collaborated. For future use in clinic results found are in a translation process. Work carried out from the Innovation unit of IDIBELL.

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