Written byGarima Bora
Indian-origin professor Chandra Mohan and his two colleagues at the US's University of Houston's biomedical engineering department received a $2mn grant from the National Institutes of Health to find out why lupus is more common in women than men.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, SLE or lupus, is difficult to diagnose and treat. It is about nine times more common in women than men.
Lupus is a disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, or organs). In lupus, something goes wrong with the immune system, which fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs. Lupus is not related to cancer/HIV and is not contagious.
Bank1 is a critical gene in B-Lymphocytes, the immune cells which make the antibodies that cause lupus when they misguidedly attack the body's own cells.
"Bank1 exists in men and women, but in women, the consequences are more drastic because the Bank1 gene and female hormones work together on the same pathway and make even higher levels of disease-causing auto-antibodies," Professor Mohan said.
Genetic studies have led to the identification of several genes involved with lupus, but how they operate is still unclear. One such gene is the Bank1.
"We will examine how the Bank1 impacts B-cell function and disease, in concert with female sex-hormones," Mohan said.
He has been exploring lupus on different fronts for almost 30 years, along with colleagues, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz.
Mohan will examine the molecular mechanisms through which lupus genes and sex hormones interface to cause autoimmunity. A better understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms underlying the disease will also pave the way towards better therapeutics, he said.
"We need a better understanding of lupus, we need to know if we can diagnose and monitor the disease better using better-biomarkers, and we need to know superior ways to treat it," Mohan said.
On this grant, Mohan is joined by Chin-Yo Lin of the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling, and biologist Anne Satterthwaite of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
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