Blood markers identify lupus risk, Feinstein Institute researchers find

MANHASSET, NY – Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Professor Betty Diamond, MD, and colleagues discovered what they believe can identify a person’s risk for lupus by looking at the presence and amount of antibodies and a protein complex in blood. Health care professionals could now feasibly use these markers to anticipate which lupus patients might benefit from early interventions, or might be at risk of an impending flare. These findings are published in the open-access journal Molecular Medicine.

Dr. Diamond and colleagues developed an index that identifies the risk for lupus based on the presence and amount of Immunoglobin G (IgG) and Immunoglobin M (IgM) antibodies and levels of C1q, a protein complex associated with protection from lupus, in blood serum. To compare potential biomarkers of lupus, or systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE), among women with different SLE risks, the authors analyzed blood serum samples from five cohorts: 40 Malian (West African) women with a history of malaria infection (MAL), 51 African American lupus patients (SLE), 80 healthy African American women (AAHC), 98 unaffected sisters of lupus patients (SIS), and 16 Caucasian healthy controls (CHC).

“We have been curious about why individuals of West African descent have a higher prevalence of lupus,” said Dr. Diamond, the corresponding author of the paper. “A better understanding about the risk of lupus and why it differs between populations could help us better treat or even prevent people from getting the condition.”

Feinstein Institute researchers found that the risk index they studied was highest in SLE patients; second highest in unaffected sisters of SLE patients; third highest in healthy African-American women and lowest in healthy Caucasian women and malaria-exposed West African women. From this, they can confirm known lupus risk as well as their hypothesis that high levels of IgG, low levels of IgM (and the resulting high IgG to IgM ratio) and low levels of C1q predispose to lupus. The results also confirm that exposure to malaria results in increased levels of protective IgM antibodies and C1q, which may delay onset of lupus in genetically predisposed individuals.

“Dr. Diamond’s is a recognized leader in lupus research,” noted Kevin J. Tracey, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute. “Now her discovery of blood markers to assess disease risk also gives new insights into early diagnosis and hope for potential therapeutic pathways.”

To view Dr. Diamond’s Molecular Medicine paper, click here.

About the Feinstein Institute

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York. Home to 50 research laboratories and to clinical research throughout dozens of hospitals and outpatient facilities, the Feinstein Institute includes 4,000 researchers and staff who are making breakthroughs in molecular medicine, genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we empower imagination and pioneer discovery, visit

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