Blood markers for lupus development
While the result above is interesting, the researchers goal is to predict which people are likely to develop lupus. “This research focused on trying to find blood markers that identify people, even seven years beforehand, who are going to become lupus patients,” said Dr. Munroe.
There were statistically significant differences between the people that developed lupus. At a very high level of statistical significance (P < 0.0001), the relatives that developed lupus had higher SLE-CSQ scores and more autoantibody specificities.
At baseline, those that developed lupus had elevated “plasma level of inflammatory mediators, including B lymphocyte stimulator, stem cell factor (SCF), and interferon-associated chemokines (P <= 0.02).” They also had lower levels of regulatory mediators such as transforming growth factor beta and interleukin-10.
The researchers note that these results provide a method for identifying high-risk relatives who may benefit from prevention trials.
With an eye to the future, Dr. James and Dr. Munroe will be working with other researchers on the SMILE project, a clinical trial that will treat people that are at high-risk for lupus with anti-inflammatory medications.
The goal isn’t just to prevent new cases of lupus, though. Dr. James expanded on the vision for their research: “We can learn from the immune systems of family members who don’t get sick. This might tell us how we could retrain the immune system to keep people healthy.”