Researchers from Imperial College London, the Medical Research Council (MRC), and other international institutions have identified a gene that can cause the kidney to become inflamed - something that can lead to kidney failure.
Professor Tim Aitman, co-author of the study from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre and Imperial College London and colleagues identified a gene that controls the activity of a group of cells thought to be responsible for potentially severe inflammation of the kidney.
The gene, called Jund, could offer a route for tackling the auto-immune destruction of kidney tissue which can occur in lupus patients, causing renal failure.
Jund regulates the activity of macrophages, cells, which helps fight infection by eating up cellular debris and pathogens, and stimulating immune cells.
The new study showed that when these cells are overactive, they could destroy healthy kidney tissue.
"We are hoping that this discovery will allow us to find a new and effective way of treating this potentially fatal form of kidney failure," Nature quoted Professor Aitman, as saying.
"By reducing the activity of the Jund gene, we were able to reduce activity of inflammatory cells that can become overactive in certain diseases of the kidney.
"Such a therapy would be of obvious benefit to patients suffering from auto-immune diseases such as lupus.
"This would allow them to avoid dialysis and maintain their quality of life," he added.
The study is published in the journal Nature Genetics.