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As evidence mounted toward the connection between lupus and an individual’s genetic makeup, the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) made a commitment:  to assemble some of the best and brightest minds in lupus research to identify and understand the genes that predispose someone to the disease.  In 2005, the International Consortium on the Genetics of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLEGEN) was formed.  The consortium is comprised of 18 prominent lupus genetics researchers and their groups, who are committed to isolating these genes and determining how variations in them influence the disease.

In just a few years, SLEGEN has accomplished more than thought possible with discoveries that are changing the way we think about the disease. In January 2008, less than three years after the formation of SLEGEN, the group published landmark data identifying 13 genes linked to women with lupus.  Since then, and because of the breakthroughs made by SLEGEN, scientists have identified many more genes that are likely associated with the disease.  These findings were so compelling that additional studies were initiated to take a closer look at these genes and possibly discover more. 

Earlier this year, the ALR provided an additional $500,000 in funding for SLEGEN to continue its research utilizing advanced chip technology, called the Immunochip, to close in on the more than 30 probable genes.  This research includes completing genome-wide studies for multiple ethnicities including African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian descent.  These studies will likely result in a greater understanding of how genetic variance impacts age of disease onset and lupus-related complications common with the disease.  In other words, scientists theorize that certain genetic variants may tell us which conditions, such as kidney disease and cardiovascular issues, a patient is more likely to experience.  Furthermore, the research will allow scientists to assess the correlation of lupus genetics to that of other autoimmune diseases.  

“The ALR has played the critical, pivotal role in the creation of the SLEGEN consortium and sending the message that bringing people together can actually solve the challenge of lupus.” -- Robert F. Kimberly, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Director of the University of Alabama, Birmingham Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Center


  • The Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) founded the international research consortium in 2005.
  • The ALR supported the initial three-year study with $2.25 million in funding.
  • After scanning the entire genome and 317,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), scientists found 13 genes linked to lupus. Study results were published in the January 20, 2008 issue of Nature Genetics.  Since then, more than 30 genes have now been linked to the disease.
  • In January of 2011, the ALR provided an additional $500,000 in funding to more closely scrutinize genetic variations in multiple ethnicities utilizing advanced chip technologies and allowing scientists to learn more about the 13 identified genes.
  • Studies are designed to assess how genetics will impact if and when an individual will develop lupus, and the complications that may occur.
  • Findings will continue to spur more studies, leading to new treatment strategies.
  • SLEGEN scientists have secured additional funding from other agencies, including National Institutes of Health (NIH), that have helped further their groundbreaking research.


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