Genes Could Point to Lupus Severity

Right now there's no good way of assessing who's most at risk, experts say

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Gene signatures, or patterns, may help predict the severity and frequency of lupus activity, a new study suggests.

"A key finding is that the combination of gene signatures is a much better indicator of disease activity than any one signature alone. Further study and validation of these signatures may lead to new, targeted therapies for lupus," University of Minnesota researcher Emily C. Baechler said in a prepared statement.

The findings were to be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in San Diego.

Lupus patients can experience a broad range of symptoms and predicting severity and risk to various organs is difficult with current technology.

The study included 81 lupus patients and 41 healthy people in a control group. Researchers collected blood samples from all the volunteers and used gene expression microarrays to identify blood markers of lupus activity and correlate those markers with severe disease activity scores.

The researchers were able to identify 10 genes which, together, were the best indicators about current and future lupus activity.

"The ability to measure these signatures with a simple blood test could make them a useful tool in the clinic, allowing doctors to identify patients at risk for severe disease and shape their treatment plans accordingly," Baechler said.

More information

The Lupus Foundation of America has more about lupus.

SOURCE: American College of Rheumatology, news release, Nov. 11, 2005

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