Leading the way to a cure


Mining the Complement System for Lupus Biomarkers

Ahearn, Joseph, MD

University of Pittsburgh

In preliminary studies funded in part by the ALR, Dr. Ahearn and his colleagues developed blood tests that show promise for more accurately diagnosing lupus and monitoring disease activity. These tests measure the levels of certain proteins that are deposited on the surface of red blood cells. The proteins are part of the complement system—a group of blood proteins that contribute to inflammation and tissue damage in lupus. In the next phase of this project, Dr. Ahearn and his coworkers will measure complement proteins on red blood cells in samples from a large number of people with lupus at multiple time points over a two-year period. This large clinical study will evaluate the ability of these blood tests to diagnose lupus and monitor disease activity, with the goal of developing the tests for routine use in settings such as a doctor’s office or medical laboratory.

What this study means for people with lupus: One of the main obstacles to developing better therapies for lupus is the lack of biomarkers for the disease—that is, biological molecules or other factors that can be used to measure the progress of disease and the effects of treatment. New biomarkers are also needed to improve the diagnosis of lupus. Dr. Ahearn’s study shows promise for yielding biomarkers that can increase the accuracy of lupus diagnosis, provide better ways of measuring the response to therapies being tested in clinical trials for people with lupus, and allow earlier and more accurate detection of disease flares, enabling better treatment of the disease.

1.5 million

people in the U.S. have Lupus.

172 million

dollars committed to lupus research by the Lupus Research Alliance.

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