Lupus Risk Factors: Genetic Factors Associated with the Risk of Developing Lupus

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Gender and Ethnicity

Lupus occurs approximately 10 times more frequently in females than in males. Lupus also occurs approximately 4 times more frequently in African-American women than Caucasian women. Lupus is also more prevalent in women of Latino, Asian and Native American descent.

Although some genes associated with lupus have been identified, researchers continue to work toward the identification and study of the genetic link associated with the development of lupus. Researchers studied the DNA of 20 women of European descent with lupus and 2,337 women without lupus. The goal was to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms, locations on chromosomes where genetic material may vary from person to person by a single nucleotide. The results were confirmed in another independent study. An association was found with several SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in three genes: ITGAM, KIAA1542 and PXK. Other genes had been previously been identified in the association of lupus as well.

According to an article at, ITGAM is important for adherence of immune cells and cleaning up pathogens. KIAA1542 functions in translating DNA code into protein. PXK functions as an encoding molecule that transmits signals and controls complex processes in cells.


Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center identified a gene linked to lupus that might explain the gender difference of why more women are afflicted by the condition than men. The gene, IRAK1 and its location on the X chromosome will hopefully provide insight into the increased susceptibility of women in developing lupus. The link with the IRAK1 gene prompts further study and analysis.

Heredity and Environmental Factors

Although plays a large role in the development of lupus, it appears that there are environmental factors at work also. Lupus tends to run in families and studies have been done to try and understand the hereditary factors involved in the susceptibility and development of the disease. According to The Lupus Site, if lupus was governed only by genes, then when one identical twin is affected by the disease, the other should be too. However, that is not the case. It is known that several genes play a role in the development of lupus, but several environmental factors such as certain medications are suspected of influencing susceptibility and possible development of the disease.

Treatment of Lupus

There is currently no cure for lupus, however a research team led by a University of Iowa investigator has generated DNA-like compounds that inhibit cells responsible for the most common and serious form of lupus. Researchers are hopeful that with more study these compounds can be effective weapons in the treatment of lupus. The condition of lupus is a complex and devastatingly difficult disease to live with, but continuing research provides more clues to understanding lupus.