WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Oct. 19, 2009 -- At least a dozen or more genes may help explain what causes
lupus, according to two new studies.
Researchers have identified 12 genetic variants that are associated with an
increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the disease commonly
referred to as lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s natural defense system
attacks itself. The disease targets the joints, skin, and other organs of the
The exact cause of lupus is unknown, but researchers have long suspected
that genetics play a role because the disease is more common in some ethnic
populations than others and also tends to run in families.
In the first of two separate studies, published in Nature Genetics,
researcher Vesela Gateva of Genentech in South San Francisco and colleagues
compared genetic markers in 1,923 people with lupus and 4,329 healthy
They found five genes that were associated with an increased risk of
systemic lupus erythematosus.
In the second study, Jian-Wen Han of Anhui Medical University in Anhui,
China, compared potential genetic markers for lupus in 1,047 Chinese patients
with SLE and a comparison group of 1,205 healthy Chinese adults.
Their results confirmed seven previously reported genes for lupus as well as
identified nine new genes associated with an increased risk of lupus. Two of
those genes overlapped with the five found by Gateva’s group for a total of 12
new potential genetic markers for lupus.
Researchers say the presence of these genes, together with environmental and
lifestyle factors, such as sunlight, stress, hormones, cigarette smoke, and
certain infections, may all play a part in what causes lupus.
SOURCES:Gateva, V. Han, J. Nature Genetics, Oct. 18, 2009 advance online
publication.News release, Nature Journals.WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise:
"Lupus -- Topic Overview."
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