Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Dr. John Harley and an international consortium of researchers have identified 13 genes they think contribute to lupus, an autoimmune disorder that affects as many as 2 million Americans.
The findings appeared online in two related articles in Sunday's edition of the journal Nature Genetics.
"We used to celebrate every gene one at a time and now we're going to celebrate 13 at once,” Harley said of the painstaking work of finding out how small changes in genes cause disease.
"It's a humbling thing to be able to actually bring it to completion, and to know there were tens of millions of dollars involved in this, decades and decades of work by hundreds of scientists,” he said.
"It's a miracle. There's no two ways about it.”
The president of the Alliance for Lupus Research, Barbara Boyts, said she hoped the research will lead to "new and better” treatments.
"This initial, important discovery will prove invaluable to all those affected by lupus,” she said in a news release.
About the study
The goal was to identify sections of chromosomes where abnormalities appeared regularly in lupus sufferers.
"By identifying the mechanisms of disease through basic research, as was done here, it can lead to fundamental understanding of the disease process and help us develop better therapies to fight it,” Harley said.