Leading the way to a cure


The SLEGEN project has realized tremendous success since the ALR’s initial founding of the group in 2005 and is now taking the research to a whole new level. Utilizing the most advanced technology available, the ImmunoChip, SLEGEN scientists are more closely examining the genes that were identified in the most recent round of studies. This highly specialized and powerful tool is allowing researchers to engage in an even greater level of detail because the information contained on the ImmunoChip — based completely on findings from previous genetic studies — is extremely focused and specific. The new technology offers scientists the amazing ability to study hundreds of thousands of genetic variants – 250,000 to be exact -- in more than 10,000 participants.  

In this landmark study, SLEGEN Scientists are working to accomplish three goals:

  • Ethnicity and Lupus:  To learn how ethnicity affects one’s chance of developing lupus and severe complications by studying the genetic variants of African, Asian, and Hispanic Americans. It is well known that African Americans with lupus are much more likely to experience complications involving renal disease than are European Americans with lupus. Understanding why — in genetic terms — may help clinicians more closely predict when an individual might develop lupus, the complications he or she may experience and to what degree — leading to effective disease management and more precise treatments.
  • Autoimmune Disease Commonalities:  To study lupus together with 12 major autoimmune diseases — autoimmune thyroid disease, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, IgA deficiency, multiple sclerosis, primary biliary cirrhosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes and ulcerative colitis — and help us understand how lupus is unique and how it is similar to other immune system diseases. These genes are thought to have some commonalities that may tell us more about autoimmune disease and what genetic variations influence each disease, bringing us closer to finding effective treatments. By looking at so many autoimmune diseases together, the study may provide a much deeper look into the alterations of the immune system that cause disease and help identify those common shared genetic risk factors.
  • Gene Variants & Biologic Pathways:  To acquire evidence of particular gene variants that are related to lupus and to biologic processes or pathways, like the processes involving Interferon Alpha and Toll-like Receptors — and to guide further research to evaluate if such processes are indeed potential clues for stopping the development of lupus.

The realistic hope is that the ImmunoChip study will reveal, in enormously expanded detail, the critical roles that genetic variance and ethnicities play in predisposing an individual to developing lupus, age of disease onset and lupus-related complications common with the disease. Preliminary results may be available as soon as mid-2012.

Dr. Robert Kimberly, a leading SLEGEN researcher and former ALR Scientific Advisory Board Member, says, “This is like shining a floodlight into the contributing genetic causes and biologic pathways of lupus. Our investigation is providing a deeper insight into the best potential targets for breakthroughs in diagnostics, prevention, treatment, and eventually a cure.”


What's Next?

SLEGEN scientists are hopeful that genetic research, particularly utilizing this level of collaboration and technology, will more quickly lead us to more effective treatment options and potentially a cure for this debilitating disease.  Results from ongoing studies conducted by the SLEGEN consortium will continue to provide insight in lupus-related conditions and possibly ways to help prevent or delay the onset of symptoms as well as alter the severity of the disease.

1.5 million

people in the U.S. have Lupus.

90 million

dollars committed to lupus research by the Alliance for Lupus Research.

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