Researchers in Oklahoma are part of a team that has uncovered two dozen new genes linked to the autoimmune disease lupus. The discovery comes after a nine-year research study that looked at more than 27,000 DNA samples.
The disease is caused by the immune system becoming unbalanced, leading to the development of antibodies and chronic inflammation that can damage the body’s organs and tissues. A total of 101 genes are now known to affect the likelihood a person gets lupus.
Dr. Patrick Gaffney helped author the study and works at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. He says one gene variation alone cannot trigger the disease.
“There is a certain amount of genetic hits, you might say, that you can take before you start really rapidly increasing your risk of lupus,” Gaffney said.
He hopes the new research will help develop early prediction models for the disease.
The study found some of the newly discovered lupus genes are more prevalent in African-American and Latino patients. The disease primarily strikes women and disproportionately affects certain minority groups, including African Americans, American Indians and Latinos.
Lupus affects about 1.5 million people in the U.S.