As those with lupus know, the disease can be painful, exhausting, and difficult to both diagnose and treat. That’s because the chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease affects multiple organs and often mimics other diseases.
But now a new discovery by a team led by a University of Minnesota researcher may hold an important key to understanding and treating lupus: a variant of a gene that is present in most people with the disease. This is the first time research has shown such a strong link between a particular gene variant and a lupus diagnosis.
The gene identified plays a role in turning on a pathway in the body’s immune system that is meant to fight infection. In people with lupus, this pathway doesn’t turn off, causing the body to attack its own tissue.
“Identifying carriers of this gene could be helpful in developing the most successful treatment plan,” says Timothy Behrens, M.D., a professor of medicine and coleader on the paper. Further study of this gene could lead to the development of drugs to target this pathway and treat patients who carry the gene.
The research was published online on April 16 in the journal Nature Genetics.