Transplants for Lupus

Umbilical cord stem cells may lead to a new treatment for lupus

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Lupus is a rare disease that can affect many parts of the body, including the kidneys. Using certain stem cells, researchers have discovered they may be able to help patients whose kidneys have been damaged by lupus.

According to a recent study, transplanting stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood can help treat patients with lupus nephritis - a kidney disorder caused by lupus. Researchers also found that transplanting the stem cells sooner may lead to better results.

"Stem cells from the umbilical cord may help treat lupus."

Researchers found that transplanting these stem cells in people with lupus may slow down damage to kidney function; reduce the amount of antibodies that lead to lupus nephritis; and slow the development of proteinuria - a sign of kidney damage.

According to Dr. Oscar K. Lee, from the National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine and one of the study's authors, the promising results from this early study - which did not involve humans but only mice - show that more research might find that stem cell transplants are useful in treating lupus nephritis.

Dr. David Eve, from the University of South Florida and associate editor of Cell Transplantation, adds that these umbilical cord stem cells may be used to treat other autoimmune diseases besides lupus because of their ability to reduce inflammation.

In Depth

For their study, researchers transplanted umbilical cord blood stem cells - called mensenchymal stem cells (uMSCs) - into 23 mice. Of these mice, one group received the transplant at 2-months old, another group received the transplant at 6-months old, and a third group did not get any transplant.

The researchers found that transplantation of uMSCs:

  • reduced the severity of proteinuria - abnormal amounts of protein in urine and a sign of kidney damage
  • reduced the severity of the decline in the kidney's ability to function
  • reduced the amount of anti-dsDNA antibodies - proteins that play a major role in lupus
  • increased the life span of the mice
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 18, 2011
Last Updated:
April 20, 2011