JERUSALEM                  -             Israeli and U.S. researchers have developed a treatment for lupus disease, Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in southern Israel reported Wednesday.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can attack various parts of the body.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, there are about five million cases around the world.

In a study, led by BGU and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and published in the journal Science, the researchers showed how mitochondrial DNA triggers autoimmune diseases. Mitochondria are cell organelles that produce most of the cell’s energy and are essential for its function and maintenance.

The team has discovered a unique mechanism in which mitochondrial DNA exits the cell through a large protein channel. Mitochondrial DNA is identified by the immune system as a foreign object that triggers an immune response, expressed in autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

The researchers developed a new molecule to prevent the formation of the protein channel, thus blocking the mitochondrial DNA, as well as proteins that cause cells death. This prevents the release of mitochondrial DNA as in lupus disease and prevents cell death as in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The team has had remarkable success in lupus mouse models so far and is beginning to take the next steps towards other diseases, such as colitis and Crohn’s.