UF hematopathologist Li-Jun Yang, M.D., is awarded a grant by the Lupus Research Institute to study the role of inflammatory cytokine in lupus patients.

Published: February 4th, 2014

Category: Department News

University of Florida Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine Hematopathologist Li-Jun Yang, M.D., was recently awarded $300,000 to study components of blood in patients with lupus over three years. This is an amazing honor, and we are proud of our colleague for having earned it.

In her own words, Dr. Yang describes the study she will perform:

Li-Jun Yang, M.D.

Li-Jun Yang, M.D.

“Bone marrow is a blood-forming organ consisting of cells that provide a microenvironment for the production or red and white blood cells and platelets. It contains many different cells, including bone, cartilage and fat cells, all derived from self-renewing stem cells called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The MSCs support other stem cells, called hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which develop into blood cells. MSCs regulate the blood-forming process and occupy bone marrow niches where the HSCs develop into blood cells. Normal blood formation depends on the healthy bone marrow microenvironment. Disorders of the blood and blood-forming tissues affect three-quarters of lupus patients. About half have anemia of chronic inflammation, which causes fatigue and increases the risk of stem cell transplantation. For unclear reasons, the function of the niches where blood cells develop is abnormal in lupus. In particular, the MSCs appear to be dysfunctional. We will investigate the role of the inflammatory cytokine (tumor necrosis factor -TNF) in the blood disorders seen in lupus patients. If we can establish that TNF is involved in the pathogenesis of these disorders, medications called TNF inhibitors may be used to block their effects. Understanding how stem cell niches are dysfunctional in lupus patients may have important for both understanding the cause of lupus and for treating the disease. In addition, our studies may lead to an approach to increase the safety of autologous stem cell transplantation in lupus.”

On behalf of our Department, Well done, Dr. Yang! Keep up the great work.