Jan. 23, 2008 -- Lupus researchers have found six new genes that affect lupus risk -- and they suspect that that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The new lupus genes are described in four different reports in the advance online editions of The New England Journal of Medicine and Nature Genetics.
In a nutshell, four international teams of scientists compared DNA from European and U.S. lupus patients and people without lupus.
Those comparisons led to the discovery of the six new lupus genes -- named BLK, ITGAM, PXK, KIAA1542, rs10798269, and BANK1 -- and the confirmation of more than a dozen other known lupus genes.
Many of the genes are involved in the immune system. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks the body.
"These genetic studies are the first step in getting a detailed understanding of the molecular pathways that underlie lupus," says Mary Crow, MD, in a news release.
Crow wrote an editorial for The New England Journal of Medicine about the new lupus gene studies. She is the associate chief of the rheumatology division and director of rheumatology research at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery.
Crow calls for diverse studies on the genetics of lupus. The new reports focus on lupus patients of European descent, but "lupus is most severe in people with African, Asian, and Hispanic backgrounds," says Crow.