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Archive - Oct 26, 2019

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Lupus Study Illustrates Importance of Considering Diversity In Genetic Research

Scientists at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, have pinpointed epigenetic differences in the way lupus affects black women compared to other lupus patients, revealing important mechanics of the puzzling disease. Epidemiologists have identified that lupus impacts black women with greater frequency and severity than other populations. Scientists in Dr. Devin Absher's Lab (https://hudsonalpha.org/faculty/devin-absher/) at HudsonAlpha published findings on August 20, 2019, in an open-access article in Arthritis & Rheumatology, showing that increased risk and harm to lupus patients can be linked to epigenetic differences--essentially, the degree to which certain genes are functioning. The finding helps create a more complete understanding of an often misunderstood disease, revealing some of the mechanisms that contribute to it. The article is titled “Epigenetic Defects in the B cell lineage of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients Display Population‐Specific Patterns.” The study also reveals a gap in genetic research, highlighting the lack of information scientists have regarding racial differences on the genetic level. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body. It causes symptoms that are often difficult to quantify, including fatigue and extreme joint pain. Lupus is one of the most historically chronicled diseases, having first been documented by Socrates in 400 BC. The disease gets its name from a common rash that forms on the face which is said to resemble the markings of wolves, hence the latin name "lupus" meaning wolf. There are more than 200,000 cases of lupus in the US every year, yet there is no universally accepted cause or cure. The disease is chronic, meaning it can last for years or even an entire lifetime.