Lupus is an autoimmune disease that has struck an estimated 2 million Americans according to the Lupus Foundation of America. Around the world, lupus has already struck a total of 5 million people, and 90% of them are all women commonly between 15 to 45. Lupus has the chance to be life threatening if not treated early. This autoimmune disease can also be mild in its early stages but have a significant impact on the patient.
Recently though, there have been efforts made on new genetic markers for lupus in different ethnicities of people. One of the main causes of lupus would be genetics, which comes as no surprise that there are different genetic markers that can identify lupus. With these markers, it is actually possible to find a better way to treat this condition. One of the more interesting studies would be from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. This interesting study may shed more light on the future efforts of finding more effective treatment for the disease.
What Exactly is Lupus?
In order to fully appreciate this study, it is very important first to understand lupus and how it badly affects the body. First of all, lupus is an inflammatory disease that happens when your immune system works against you. Your immune system will start to attack all of your organs like your kidneys, cells, brain, heart, lungs, and even your skin. When this happens, your whole body can slowly deteriorate. There are several signs and symptoms that can show up if you do have lupus. Some of the most common ones are fatigue, joint swelling and pain, facial rashes that cover the cheek and nose, white fingers and toes, chest pains, and palpitations. In some cases, you may even have some memory loss.
What Does Science Say About Lupus Being a Genetic Condition?
Although lupus has several causes, which include overexposure to the sun, infections that cause lupus, and even some medications, a lot of researchers have been very interested in the genetic link of people that have lupus. There has been a long standing debate as to whether lupus is actually caused by genetics or not wherein many researchers have found it tough to fully find the genetic link in lupus patients. However, over the course of time, there have been studies that have proven to show that there are certain genes associated with the condition. This particular study by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is one of the most recent and interesting ones. In order to further find a good treatment for the disease, finding a genetic link in the lupus patients would make a very good springboard to know which markers and genes are associated with the deadly condition.
The Scope and Methodology of the Study
Now that we have an idea about lupus, let’s move on to the details of the study. The leader of the study is Carl Langefeld, Ph.D. who is a professor of biostatistical sciences at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. According to Langefeld, this research is, by far, the largest multi-ethnic lupus genetics study that has been done up to date and has identified a lot of new genetic markers. These markers can be seen only in certain ethnic groups or shared by several ethnic groups. Langefeld also states that the results of the study would help us have a better grasp of the disease and how they may differ per ethnic group. The study will also help people understand how the lupus cases that are not shared among ethnic groups work. This can help the pharmaceutical companies and the medical world further develop better treatment methods.
The scope of the study covers a total of 27, 574 people that come from European, American, African, and Hispanic descent. The Immunochip was the preferred tool that was used for the study. It is a genotype technology chip that was designed for tracking autoimmune diseases.
Specifically, the researchers studied 58 genomes in Caucasians, nine genomes in African Americans, and 16 genomes in Hispanic individuals.
The Results of the Study
Now, some of the key findings and observations can be seen although the study has a lot more to cover for future researches. One of the important observations is that almost 50% of the regions had more than one genomes that overlap among the people who had lupus. One other key observation that was found in the study is that the risk of an individual developing lupus is higher if the lupus variant is independent and not shared by others in the multi-ethnic group. These are two of the most important observations that the study was able to showcase. The significance of these results lead the researchers to actually create a hypothesis on the chances of a person developing a case of lupus. The hypothesis aims to quantify how a person can get hit and which people in the multi-ethnic environment have the higher chances of getting hit.
With this, the team has already planned for future research with the hopes of further understanding how the different genome variants can contribute to the risk of having lupus. This information will then lead to the creation of certain drugs or treatment methods that are specific to the other factors that cause lupus such as the outside environmental factors, the infections, and also other causes of the deadly disease.
Though they were able to get some good results that contributed to the overall research of lupus, the researchers emphasized that more focus should be done on the understudied populations like the African American and Hispanic population. Focusing on them will give future researchers a complete view of how lupus affects the global population and which ethnic groups are more prone to the disease. A much broader spectrum will be covered if future researchers expand their horizons and help the research and development of pharmaceutical companies create drugs that are specific to certain genomes that only affect a certain group of people.
Although the research for lupus still has a long way to go, the efforts of Dr. Langefield has already been a fruitful one with CEO and President of the Lupus Research Alliance congratulating him for a successful study made with the ImmunoChip. This study was supported by both the Lupus Research Alliance and the National Institutes of Health.
With millions of people being affected by lupus every day, it is extremely hard to treat the illness since there is no absolute cure for it yet. However, research on the topic is being done on how to further improve the treatment of this fatal condition in order to reduce the number of people who have lupus. With the huge success of this certain study, we can expect to be a step closer to more effective medicines. Although the study did not fully conclude the genetic link of lupus to its patients, it does pave the way for a lot of future research that can be done to discover more findings of the disease and how to cure it. This one step can maybe even bring us closer to a complete cure of the disease.