Scientists from an international consortium have identified a large number of new genetic markers that predispose individuals to lupus.
The study is published in the July 17 issue of the journal Nature Communications and was led by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, King’s College of London and Genentech Inc.
Autoimmune diseases strike one in 15 Americans, are among the top 10 causes of death in women and cost an estimated $100 billion a year in medical care. In autoimmune diseases, the body attacks itself. Systemic lupus erythematosus, the form of lupus studied here, is the most common type of lupus and is a prototypical autoimmune disease.
Lupus strikes women nine times more often than men and its onset is most common during childbearing age. Also, African-American and Hispanic women are two to three times more likely to develop lupus and tend to have more severe cases than Caucasian women. At present, there is no cure for lupus, which can affect many parts of the body, including joints, skin, kidney, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain, according to the Lupus Research Alliance.
“This study is the largest multi-ethnic lupus genetics study to date and allowed us to identify many new genetic markers, some of which are specific to individual ethnic groups and others that are shared across ethnicities,” said Carl Langefeld, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of biostatistical sciences at Wake Forest School of Medicine, a part of Wake Forest Baptist. “With this information, we can begin to better understand the differences in the rates and severity of disease across ethnic groups.
“In addition, we observed that many of the genetic markers associated with lupus are shared across numerous autoimmune diseases, and those that are not shared may allow us to understand why a person develops lupus instead of another autoimmune disease. These results will help us identify the biological…