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New research identifies anti-viral protein that may predict who might be at risk to develop lupus

causes the production of the damaging autoantibodies.

The high level of interferon-alpha doesnt always cause the disease, because many healthy family members have high levels, says Dr. Niewold, who is now an Instructor in the Section of Rheumatology at the University of Chicago. We think, however, that those levels somehow prime the immune system, lowering the threshold, so that when the wrong stimulus comes along, the cells of the immune system begin making the autoantibodies and the person develops SLE.

The researchers are now working to identify the other players that are involved in the progression of SLE. They hope that as they know more, they may be able to identify those at high risk and diagnose the condition early enough to intervene and reverse the disease. Observational and genetic studies of families with high levels of interferon-alpha will also help them to pinpoint the other factors, including the relevant genetic variations that determine why one family member develops the disease while another doesnt.

The hope is that we may be able to use interferon-alpha levels as a measurement to predict who might be at risk to develop this disease, says Dr. Crow, who is the immediate past president of the American College of Rheumatology. We cant do that yet, but the success of this study is very encouraging.


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Contact: Tracy Hickenbottom
hickenbottomt@hss.edu
212-606-1197
Hospital for Special Surgery
27-Jul-2007


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