Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of Lupus, is an autoimmune disease. In SLE, the body's immune system (which normally protects us from infections) mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, which can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs. While the cause of SLE is not fully known, T and B lymphocytes are considered to play a major role in the disease.
SLE is more common in women than men and appears most often in people between the ages of 15 and 40. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, at least five million people worldwide have a form of lupus. The number of people who actually have the condition is estimated to be even higher, as many cases remain undiagnosed.
The course of the disease is characterized by relapses or flares, alternated with periods of remission. Symptoms vary from person to person depending on the organ affected, most common are joint pain and swelling, often in the joints of the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees and skin manifestations such as rash and sensitivity to light. Further symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, hair loss, mouth sores. Other symptoms depend on which part of the body is affected.
Current treatment of SLE is based on the use of anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive therapies, and there has been limited innovation in SLE treatment over the last 50 years. With improved diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis for SLE patients has improved in recent years – however, there is still no cure for the disease, and the need for new effective and safe therapies remains high for SLE patients.