Specific Cytokine Identified as Risk Factor for Lupus
Genetic Regulation of Interferon Alpha Human Lupus
Lupus is a complex disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organ systems. For the most part, it is not known why one person gets lupus and another does not. A cytokine (or immune system signaling molecule) called interferon alpha (IFN-a) is elevated in the blood of many lupus patients, and likely plays a role in the initiation of disease.
Dr. Niewold hypothesizes that some people make more IFN-a than others, and that people who make more IFN-a are at higher risk of developing lupus. This inherent tendency to make more IFN-a has a genetic component, and Dr. Niewold plans to study lupus patients to detect the genetic variations that result in abnormal IFN-a production. The information generated by this project should generate a better understand why some people get lupus, and may suggest better ways to not only treat the disease, but also possibly ways to prevent disease in high risk individuals.