An estimated 1.5 million Americans have lupus and live with the chronic disease that has no known cure, affects many parts of the body and can be life-threatening. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is the most common form of lupus, and the one most referred to when the disease is discussed. Lupus is a result of the immune system attacks its own tissues which causes inflammation, can affect many parts of the body including the skin, joints, heart, lung, kidneys, blood cells and even the brain — sometimes causing permanent damage.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): The word “systemic” means the disease can involve many parts of the body. SLE symptoms can be mild or serious. About 70% of lupus patients have this form of the disease. Symptoms may include skin rashes, pain or swelling of the joints, swelling in the feet and around the eyes (indicative of Kidney involvement), extreme fatigue and low fevers.
In the current 2021-22 cohort of grant funded researchers, Sarah Baxter, M.D., Ph.D. and Maria Gutierrez-Arcelus, Ph.D. focus their research on lupus and specifically on SLE. To see both present and discuss their research, along with alumni scholars Jason Knight, M.D., Ph.D. from University of Michigan, Timothy B. Niewold, M.D., Mayo Clinic and Jolien Suurmond, Ph.D. from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, watch the Research Spotlight Series webinar on Lupus from Fall 2021. Scientific Advisory Board member Betty Diamond, M.D. from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research moderates the presentations and discussions.
2021-22 ANRF Funded Scholars with Lupus Research Projects
Sarah Baxter, M.D., Ph.D.
Seattle Children’s Hospital & University of Washington
Research: Characterize the role of AIM2 in the autoimmune disease Lupus
Maria Gutierrez-Arcelus, Ph.D.
Boston Children’s Hospital
Research: Splicing Disruption in Systematic Lupus Erythematosus
While SLE is the most common form of lupus, there are other defined forms that affect patients:
Discoid lupus erythematosus (or cutaneous lupus) mainly affects the skin. Roughly 2/3 of lupus patients will develop skin disease. This can lead to red circular rashes or sores (lesions), most of which will appear on sun-exposed areas including the face, ears, neck, arms and legs. Discoid lupus rashes often leave scars or light-colored patches of skin and 40-70% of people with lupus will find its impact is worse by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight or artificial light.
Drug-induced lupus is triggered by certain drugs. It is similar to SLE, but symptoms are usually more mild. Frequently the disease goes away when the medication is stopped. More men develop drug-induced lupus because the drugs—hydralazine and procainamide—that cause it are used to treat heart conditions more common in men.
Neonatal lupus is a rare condition associated with antibodies from the mother affecting the fetus. At birth, the baby may have a skin rash, liver problems or low blood cell counts. These symptoms normally disappear after six months and have no lasting effects. The most serious symptom is a congenital heart block, which causes a slow heartbeat. Although extremely rare, newborns of women with lupus are at greater risk for developing this potentially life-threatening complication. With proper testing, most at-risk mothers can be identified, and the infant, can be treated at or before birth. Most infants of mothers with lupus are completely healthy.