Colorado researchers working with bioengineered mice say they have identified the first gene that increases the risk of developing lupus, a crippling and sometimes fatal inflammatory disease.
The researchers said that while problems with gene Ifi202 are specifically associated with lupus, many other subtle gene abnormalities are believed to be involved in the disorder.
The research is confined to mice bred to be susceptible to the disease. The finding still needs to be duplicated by other labs and new studies must be conducted to see if the gene is found in humans with lupus.
Other researchers said the gene's discovery, if confirmed, would be "very, very exciting."
Lupus is an autoimmmune disease, meaning the body's own defenses attack its healthy tissues. Many people with lupus also develop arthritis. In serious cases, it can attack the DNA and proteins in the healthy cells of kidneys and other vital organs.