There is currently no cure for lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes widespread inflammation. The cause of the disease is unknown, but it likely stems from a combination of hormonal, genetic, and environmental factors.  

Xin Luo,  professor of immunology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, has received a $300,000 grant from the Department of Defense to establish a new model for lupus.  

One factor that influences lupus is the gut microbiome, the microorganisms that populate the gastrointestinal tract. 

"The role of gut microbiome in lupus was brand new when I started my lab in 2012. We were one of the first groups that was able to establish that microbiome that can modulate the disease pathogenesis of lupus," said Luo.  

Through the new grant, Luo will develop a model that will allow her and other researchers to further study the role of microbiota in lupus.  

Several mouse models of the disease already exist, but much of the data is contradictory — for example, some models see benefits, and some see detriments in antibiotic treatment. Additionally, the existing models for lupus can't say anything definite about how the disease functions in humans.  

Luo will create a double humanized model inspired by her time as a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology, where she designed and tested HIV treatments using mice with a human immune system. Luo's double humanized model will not only have a human immune system, but it will also have a human microbiome, making it a better candidate for studying lupus in humans.

In the future, this mouse model could be used to test treatments, determine biomarkers, and further analyze the disease. Luo is interested in researching how bacteria like those in probiotics can influence lupus.  

"I think this model will be a powerful tool for people in this field."

Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. '21, a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing