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Researchers show autoantibodies occur before lupus in New England Journal of Medicine

OKLAHOMA CITY--October 15, 2003--In a study published tomorrow in The New England Journal of Medicine, scientists report that in patients suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly known as lupus), autoantibodies--proteins that the body mistakenly unleashes against its own tissue--are typically present years before patients are diagnosed with the disease. This research by scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) may help identify what causes lupus and ultimately to develop a way to prevent the chronic autoimmune disease, which affects an estimated 1.4 million Americans.

"For a decade, we have been attempting to pinpoint the first thing that goes awry in the body of a lupus patient," said John Harley, M.D., Ph.D., head of the arthritis and immunology research program at OMRF and senior author of the study. Harley also serves as chief of rheumatology at OUHSC and staff physician with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

"For the first time, this study shows that autoantibodies occur years before the clinical features of lupus and that specific autoantibodies are found very close to disease onset," Harley said.

In lupus and other autoimmune diseases, the immune system loses its ability to differentiate between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues, causing the body to attack itself. Lupus can affect any part of the body--most commonly the skin, joints, blood and kidneys--and can be life-threatening. The disease primarily strikes women and has no known cure.

In conducting this new study, the researchers used the Department of Defense Serum Repository in Washington, D.C., which contains approximately 30 million blood samples collected from more than five million U.S. Armed Forces personnel. From the military's medical records, the scientists were able to identify 130 servicemen and women who were initially heal
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Contact: Adam Cohen
adam-cohen@omrf.ouhsc.edu
405-271-7159
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
15-Oct-2003


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