The discovery that many genes are involved "means we may be one step closer to better therapies in the short run -- several years as opposed to 10 years. If we can figure out what these genes are responsible for and we can alter that, we may have a major impact on the disease," said Dr. Susan Manzi, co-director of the Lupus Center for Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh and a co-author on one of the studies.
"A better understanding of why you have this disease and what's gone wrong [creates] a potential to target better therapies," she added. A greater definition of which genes are implicated in symptoms of lupus involving the brain or kidneys, for example, would allow for more accurate screening and monitoring of people at risk for lupus, she explained.
"The holy grail is for you to have a set of genes that when they are together in the right combination incur an extremely high risk" so that people at risk can be identified and vaccinated to prevent the disease, Manzi added.
Some of the papers are the result of the recent availability of new microchip technology that allows genome-wide scans, according to Dr. Carl Langefeld, co-director of the International Consortium for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Genetics (SLEGEN), which produced the discoveries reported in Nature Genetics.
Referring to some of the studies' overlap in results, Langefeld added, "The identification of the same genetic markers in different samples further strengthens our confidence in these findings."
A fifth study done by the Scripps Institute, which appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of Immunity, took an entirely different approach, focusing instead on a genetic mutation that reduces one's risk of developing lupus, Rose added.
Lupus can affect the skin, joints, lungs, blood and other organs, and lead to cardiovascular, kidney and arthritic problems, according to the Lupus Foundation of
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