Lupus scientists share £200k Emerging Leaders Prize from Medical Research Foundation
Decoding brain disease in lupus
Brain disease is a serious and common problem in lupus, yet its molecular basis is largely unknown. This means there are no specific therapies available to stop the brain being damaged by lupus.
Thanks to funding from the Medical Research Foundation - as part of its Emerging Leaders Prize - Dr David Hunt from the University of Edinburgh is decoding the molecular basis of lupus, in order to develop better personalised treatments.
Dr Hunt’s laboratory is exploring how to combine results of an extremely sensitive blood test with images from brain scans, to follow how lupus-related brain disease develops. This information could be used to design clinical trials aimed at preventing brain damage.
Dr David Hunt said: “My laboratory’s research is dedicated to addressing the unmet needs of people with inflammatory brain diseases - and lupus brain disease is our priority. My very first job in medicine involved looking after people with lupus, and this contact has inspired my research and clinical practice. I have been struck by the burden of lupus brain disease, and the relative lack of coordinated research effort in this area.
“Our ability to develop treatments to prevent or treat brain disease in lupus is hampered by two problems. Firstly, we understand very little of the molecular pathways which drive brain disease. Secondly, we don’t have good ways of measuring brain dysfunction in clinical trials. My group addresses both of these roadblocks, trying to decode the molecular pathways and develop practical biomarkers of brain disease.
Visualisation of white matter tracts in the brain of a person with lupus.
Credit: Mark Bastin, Joanna Wardlaw, and Stewart Wiseman, University of Edinburgh.
"The Medical Research Foundation Emerging Leaders Prize has been transformative for my lab's research into lupus brain disease. The research funds have enabled me to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and develop bold new collaborations. Winning this award has also increased my group's visibility and allowed me to connect more closely with the lupus community."
In June last year, Dr Hunt and his colleagues published a review in the journal Frontiers in Immunology: https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.01146
My laboratory’s research is dedicated to addressing the unmet needs of people with inflammatory brain diseases - and lupus brain disease is our priority. Dr David Hunt, University of Edinburgh