n who have Klinefelter's syndrome, in which they have an extra X chromosome, have a lupus risk similar to women's.
Because lupus' causes are unknown, Sawalha and others are focusing on identifying genes that are more often seen in lupus patients than in those who don't have the disease.
More steps ahead
He said lupus likely is "polygenic,” meaning it is caused by two or more genes, and has environmental triggers as well.
The next step, he said, will be to study the mutated gene's chemical sequence to potentially treat or diagnose lupus.
"We want to know exactly where it is and what it will do,” he said.
Fellow OMRF lupus researcher Dr. John Harley and an international consortium in January identified 13 genes they think contribute to lupus.
OMRF is home to the Lupus Family Registry and Repository, a collection of blood samples from lupus patients and family members without lupus. By studying the differences among closely related donors, researchers seek to determine which genes predispose a person to developing lupus.
Samples from the repository were used in Sawalha's study.
OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescottcommended the foundation that Sawalha's work lays.
"Sometimes understanding the basics of a disease is the key to finding more effective treatments,” Prescott said of the recent findings.