Study Uncovers Another Key To Lupus

United Press International—NEW YORK—July 30, 2007

High levels of interferon-alpha plus a stress trigger may create the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus, say New York researchers.

Mary K. Crow, M.D., and her colleagues at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City studied the interferon-alpha levels of 266 people with SLE and 405 of their healthy relatives; they found that people who had lupus had the highest levels of interferon-alpha.

However, their healthy relatives also had higher-than-normal levels, some almost equal to those found in people with active disease.

The team also looked for two autoimmune antibodies common in people with lupus and discovered that those with active disease had both, but their healthy family members with high levels of interferon-alpha had neither.

This led the researchers to theorize that high levels of interferon activate the immune system, but it takes an environmental stress trigger to push it to the breaking point and put it into attack mode where it turns against the body.

The team said it plans to study if genetic variations explain why one family member develops lupus and another does not, and hopes that measuring interferon-alpha will help them predict who is at risk so they can intervene early and reverse the disease process.

A report on the research appears in the advance online version of the September issue of Genes and Immunity.

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