WEDNESDAY, April 4, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Three new genes linked to the chronic autoimmune disease lupus have been identified by an international team of researchers.
The analysis of more than 17,000 genetic samples from people of several ethnic groups also pinpointed another 11 genetic regions that may be related to lupus and require further study.
The researchers found that the genes IRF8 and TMEM39a are associated with lupus in European-American, African-American, Gullah (a distinctive group of African-Americans in Georgia and South Carolina) and Asian patients. The gene IKZF3 is only significantly associated with lupus in African-Americans and European-Americans.
The researchers said their findings, which appear in the April 6 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, show that the genes that cause lupus aren't always universal.
The next step is to study the three genes to find out exactly what role they play in lupus, said lead author Christopher Lessard, a scientist at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City.
Lupus affects about 1.5 million Americans, and about 90 percent of patients are women. The disease causes the immune system to become overactive and attack the body's own cells. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, rashes and joint pain.
A combination of environmental and genetic factors cause lupus. Learning more about genetic risk factors may lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about lupus.