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Research uncovers key to understanding cause of lupus
Date:1/31/2011

Potentially impacting future diagnosis and treatment of lupus, an immune illness affecting more than 5 million people worldwide, researchers at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have likely uncovered where the breakdown in the body's lymphocyte molecular regulatory machinery is occurring.

Rujuan Dai, research scientist, and her colleagues in the veterinary college's Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, have discovered a "common set of dysregulated miRNAs in murine lupus models." The research, which appears in the Dec. 13, 2010, issue of the scientific journal PLoS One, was funded in part by the Lupus Foundation of America.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease of connective tissue that causes the body's immune system to become hyperactive and attack normal, healthy tissue. This results in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, and possible damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart, or lungs.

In an effort to better understand epigenetic factors in the causes of lupus, researchers at the veterinary college focused on microRNA (miRNA), seeking to determine potential impairments of genetic regulation. These small RNAs control gene expression by directly regulating specific target messenger RNAs via inhibition of their translation or inducing their degradation.

"Micro RNAs perform these duties in an orderly fashion," said S. Ansar Ahmed, professor of immunology and head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at the college. "White blood cells use miRNA to regulate antibodies and other proteins in response to infection or any kind of assault."

The researchers chose three strains of autoimmune-prone mice that have different background genomes and manifest lupus-like disease at different ages. For example, one mouse strain began developing lupus-like disease around 3 months of age, and another mouse strain developed severe lup
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Contact: Eric McKeeby
emckeeby@vt.edu
540-231-7911
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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