Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the archetypal systemic autoimmune disease, characterised by inflammation causing a wide spectrum of major clinical manifestations that may affect any organ. Childhood-onset SLE (cSLE) is more severe with greater damage and drug burden than adult-onset SLE. Understanding the pathogenesis of cSLE is a key step in directing medical management. The dysregulated immune system, that in health is usually vital in protecting the body from infection, contributes significantly to the disease process. Improved knowledge of disease mechanism will help to identify potential targets for novel agents and the identification of new biomarkers of disease activity. This review will present current knowledge of the innate and adaptive immune responses in cSLE and the optimal patient management that aims to control the disease. Innate immune dysregulation includes the overexpression of interferon-α, dendritic cell activation, neutrophil extracellular traps and phagocyte abnormalities. The classical adaptive immune system is over activated in lupus with excessive autoantibody production due to abnormalities in B and T cell regulation. Novel biologic medications are being developed to specifically target these areas with the ultimate aim of improving the long-term outlook and quality of life for children living with Lupus.
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