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Andrea Knight, MD, FRCPC

Clinician Investigator

The Hospital for Sick Children



Multi-level biomarkers for psychiatric disorders in pediatric lupus

Up to 50% of young people with lupus have neuropsychiatric disorders, but many of these patients don’t receive the treatment they need. Her study will ask whether a variety of tests, including brain scans with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and analysis of proteins in blood samples, can help identify which patients have these disorders due to lupus. They anticipate that the results of the study will lead to early detection and targeted treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders in young people with lupus.


What this study means to people with lupus


Young people with lupus often have neuropsychiatric disorders like depression or anxiety, which may be caused by brain inflammation. Dr. Knight is developing a new biomarker to better detect and diagnose neuropsychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety that are common in pediatric patients so they can receive treatment and get relief sooner.

Neuropsychiatric disorders affect 30-50% of youth with pediatric-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (pSLE), but management remains a significant challenge due poor understanding of the underlying pathophysiology, and psychiatric disorders have been particularly understudied. Utilizing advanced neuroimaging techniques in combination with neurocognitive measures and serum biomarkers may help elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying inflammatory disease in neuropsychiatric SLE, critically impacting research and clinical care. This longitudinal study leverages optimized techniques to obtain advanced neuroimaging, cognitive and psychiatric indices in youth with pSLE, for comparison to a normative youth sample. The main objective of this proposal is to correlate affective function in pSLE, to advanced multimodal MRI, neurocognitive function, and serum biomarkers. This research will be foundational to future longitudinal study of multi-level biomarkers for psychiatric disorders in youth with pSLE, with high potential for practice-changing impact on pediatric rheumatology care.

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