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Unlocking the Genetic Mysteries of Lupus

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Australian lupus sufferers are being sought to help a Perth scientist’s quest to unravel the mystery causes of the chronic and potentially fatal autoimmune disease.

Dr Daniela Ulgiati, from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and UWA’s School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences, is teaming up with US researchers in Colorado and Los Angeles in a bid to pinpoint the genetic causes of lupus.The two-year project, which has been funded with a grant from the New York-based Alliance for Lupus Research, could lead to better treatments for the more than 20,000 Australians affected by the disease.While it’s understood lupus is caused by the body’s immune system attacking healthy tissue, what triggers that reaction remains unknown.”As well as an environmental component, we know that there is a very strong genetic component to lupus, with several genes already found likely to be linked to the disease,” said Dr Ulgiati.”Recently it’s been discovered that another gene, called CR2, may play a role in the development of lupus and it’s that gene that our new project will be directly investigating.”Lupus causes inflammation in the body that can cause pain, as well as damage the function and structure of organs including the kidney, heart, brain and lungs.”CR2 is part of a very important pathway within the human immune system that helps our bodies generate an efficient response to protect us from bacteria, viruses and other foreign materials,” said Dr Ulgiati.”Sometimes there’s a disruption to that process and the body starts to attack its own tissues and cells, leading to lupus development – what we’re investigating is if abnormal changes in the function or expression of CR2 might be linked to that disruption.”The big hope for the project of course is that if the gene is found to be a cause of lupus, it could be possible to create new drugs and therapies that target that gene.”Gretchen Lumsden, manager of the Lupus Group of WA, said this new research was very welcome as there was an urgent need to understand this incurable disease better and to find better treatments.”It is especially welcome for our young patients who will live so many years of their lives coping with this disease, these young people, many only teenagers, will benefit most from our research now,” she said.People with lupus wanting to volunteer for the Australian arm of the study are asked to call (08) 9224 0333 or email .(Source: W.A. Institute of Medical Research: January 2006.)

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Posted On: 17 March, 2006
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


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