The symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) result largely from inflammatory damage to organs, but their molecular hallmark is the production of anti-self antibodies by autoreactive B cells, which help to trigger inflammation. Thus, the publication of the B cell survival factor BLyS in 1999 provided a new avenue for SLE therapies that act upstream from inflammation.

Separate research presented by ZymoGenetics Inc. and Biogen Inc. last week at the American College of Rheumatology meeting in San Francisco suggests that blockage of BLyS does have a positive effect on complications of SLE, such as nephritis.