The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH is funding a study at Upstate Medical University (Syracuse, NY) on the use of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) for Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This study was motivated by some promising related research in Europe, where NAC is much more widely used and investigated than in the US. Here’s an excerpt from the study description:
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease which often has debilitating and potentially life-threatening consequences. The cause of SLE is unknown and current therapies lack specificity and carry significant side effects. Existing data in the literature provide evidence that a natural antioxidant, glutathione, is depleted in T cells of patients with SLE which may be a key factor underlying abnormal activation and predisposition of T lymphocytes to pro-inflammatory cell death via necrosis. Administration of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), that serves as a precursor of GSH, improves the clinical outcome of murine lupus, and limits the toxicity of pro-oxidant/immunosuppressant medications commonly used in patients with SLE. NAC is widely available in health food stores and large doses (up to 8 g/day) can be safely administered to humans. In a one-year study of patients with inflammatory lung disease treated with prednisone and azathioprine, addition of NAC (1.8g/day) diminished disease severity and reduced drug toxicity in comparison to placebo. Moreover, oral NAC has been found to improve muscle fatigue which is reported to be the most disabling symptom in 53% of patients with SLE. Thus, establishing a dose ranging between 1.8-7.2 g/day that is well-tolerated and capable of raising intracellular GSH in lupus patients and determining its immunological and therapeutic impact in SLE appear to be well justified.
The project is reported on the NCCAM website: Abstracts of 2008 Funded Projects.
For more on NAC, see the NYBC entry for PharmaNAC. This form of NAC is manufactured to the quality standards of the European Pharmacopoeia, and provides a good way to get the dosages under study in this research on SLE.