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Lupus Research Update: 2012 Volume 1

Volume 1, 2012 - Online Edition | In This Issue


Offering New Promise in Diagnosis >
Biomarkers - an Important Diagnostic Tool >
New Guidelines in Diagnosing Lupus Nephritis >
Faces of Lupus: Mack the Molecule! >
2012 ALR TIL Grantees Named >
Lupus News Corner >

Biomarkers an Important Diagnostic Tool

The ALR has witnessed significant advancements in unlocking the mysteries of lupus in the past decade - and the survival rate of people with the disease is certainly paramount among them. Still, the long-term prognosis among lupus patients remains significantly worse than that of the general population.

Lupus nephritis - or inflammation of the kidney - is a major factor. The condition typically develops within the first five years of the disease, but it is difficult to diagnose and treat.

With her ALR funding, Joan Wither, MD, PhD, from the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, is looking to biomarkers for clues. Currently renal biopsy remains the only way to establish a definitive diagnosis or to assess response to therapy in patients who are clinically deteriorating despite treatment.

Dr. Wither and LuNNET* - a team consisting of rheumatologists, nephrologists, pathologists, and biostatisticians, have a goal of developing biomarker platforms to better understand kidney disease and to stratify patients by degree of disease severity.

The team has already amassed a substantial amount of data from a prior study in which they gathered samples of biologic specimens of lupus patients. The samples include tissue from renal biopsies, serum, plasma, peripheral blood, RNA**, DNA, and urine. The goal now is to use ALR funding to study these specimens to identify novel biomarkers.

Patients who have had renal biopsies will be the primary focus, as much more data is known about the extent of their kidney damage. Two partially overlapping patient groups will also be studied, those with renal biopsies from which RNA can be extracted and those with renal biopsies paired with other biologic specimens.

Dr. Wither anticipates that the data obtained by looking at patterns of gene/protein expression could lead to new discoveries.

"This certainly is an exciting time in lupus research, and I want to thank the ALR for giving my Canadian colleagues and me the opportunity to investigate lupus nephritis," said Dr. Wither. "Molecular profiling can reveal a great deal of information and set the stage for better diagnosing, monitoring, and treatment of patients with lupus related kidney disease."


* LuNNET - Lupus Nephritis New Emerging Team

** RNA is one of the three major macromolecules along with DNA and proteins that are essential for all known forms of life.


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