Researchers Identify Genetic Marker for Lupus in African American Women

A new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology finds there may be a genetic explanation for the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in African American women.

The study, published on August 20, points to epigenetic changes near interferon-regulated genes early in B cell development. These changes are a “hallmark” of SLE development in African American women, the authors wrote.

“We have identified an aberrant epigenetic signature that developed early in B cell development in African American patients. This observation is consistent with recently published work which identified a SLE-specific epigenetic signature present in the resting naïve B cell stage that persists throughout development in a cohort of Africa American females,” wrote the authors who were led by Devin Absher, Ph.D., of the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology in Alabama.

The findings are based on an analysis of B cells from 31 African American women and 49 white women. In the new study, Dr. Absher and colleagues found that CpGs regions of DNA near interferon-regulated genes (such as MX1, IFI44L, USP18 and IFITM1) are hypo-methylated in African American women with systemic lupus from the very earliest states of B cell circulation, which suggest that B cells “might be epigenetically primed for an aberrant immune response in African American SLE patients prior to maturation.”

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