Scientists have long known that the autoimmune disease lupus disproportionately strikes women. And though they have searched for a genetic link between the disease and the X chromosome—women carry two, while men carry only one—they’ve not found one.
Until now.
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Amr Sawalha, M.D., has discovered an association between a gene located on the X chromosome and the risk of developing lupus. This gene, known as MECP2, plays a critical role in regulating the production of many genes.
The discovery could, in the long term, lead to new therapies for the disease, which affects as many as 2 million Americans and 15 million people worldwide. Sawalha, who also serves as an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and a staff physician with the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Oklahoma City, detailed his findings in a paper published today in the online scientific journal PLOS One.