Medical Xpress, July 11, 2016
Non-Europeans have a higher frequency of the gene variants that increase the risk of lupus as compared to the European population, a new study from researchers at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College London, has confirmed.
The findings, which are published today in Nature Genetics, could lead to the development of tests to predict if an individual is more likely to develop lupus and may also contribute to the development of personalised treatments for the difficult to treat autoimmune condition the affects more than five million people worldwide.
The study was led by Professor Tim Vyse, an expert in genetics and molecular medicine at King’s College London and an honorary consultant rheumatologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, who said:
“Lupus is a very poorly understood condition. The confirmation that the condition’s increased prevalence in non-Europeans has a genetic basis is an important step towards developing better predictive and diagnostic tools and may eventually help us to develop personalised treatments too.”
While the study establishes that lupus is highly hereditary, researchers believe there is still a large ‘environmental’ component which plays a significant role. Dr David Morris, a researcher at King’s College London and one of the study’s co-authors, said:
“For the first time we’ve shown that Chinese populations have a higher number of risk alleles than their European counterparts, but we don’t understand why this susceptibility hasn’t diminished over time for non-Europeans.
“When thinking about whether someone might develop lupus, we use evidence from Twins studies which has shown that genetic factors account for two-thirds of the picture and environmental factors make up the final third. Our study advances our understanding of the genetic component, but more work needs to be done to better understand the environmental factors.”