A new tool in the fight against autoimmune disease lupus

Jun 3, 2024 | News, Lupus, Lupus 2022, Products

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by Cameron Williams

There is a new way to detect lupus before it causes more significant damage.

LuGENE®, a new blood test by AMPEL BioSolutions, helps forecast flare-ups and predict abnormal drug targets based on gene expression.

“Lupus is an autoimmune disease,” said Dr. Amrie Grammer of AMPEL BioSolutions. “where your immune system gets confused and attacks your own organs. That is the how the disease starts and it’s why it is so serious.”

According to Lupus.org, women develop lupus much more often than men and nine of every 10 people with lupus are women. Of those women, three times as many are Black and as many as 1-in-250 Black women will develop the disease. More than 90% of patients have at least one flare-up a year and two-thirds have multiple flare-ups.

“Lupus often doesn’t emerge until after puberty,” Grammer said. “Lupus often happens earlier and more intensely in women of color including those of African American ancestry.”

LuGENE® is now available and many medical sites around the country — including here in Charlotte — have the blood test.

“What LuGENE® provides doctors and patients is letting them know if an unexpected change in their disease, often called a flare-up, is forecast,” Grammer said. “It provides information that a patient has a low likelihood of flare-up over the next year and they are stable on the medication they are currently taking but 95% of those living with lupus have a risk of flare-ups.”

One of the most common symptoms of lupus is a rash or redness on the face, commonly called the “butterfly rash.” Other symptoms include sores on the nose or mouth, joint pain, chest pain when breathing deeply, depression and others.
A recent study suggests that Black lupus patients are more likely to have organ system involvement, more active disease, and lower levels of social support compared to their White peers.

“The most commonly damaged organ is the kidney,” Grammer said. “This often leads to dialysis and transplant which can be very serious. The first symptom many patients see is the skin rash, also called the butterfly rash the cheeks and is a sign of the body’s autoimmune response. Oftentimes, you don’t realize Lupus is affecting the organs until you end up in the emergency room.”

LuGENE® helps monitor lupus and prevent more complex problems. If doctors understand a flare-ups is likely and are provided information about what drug targets are abnormal, they can better know what medications may keep Lupus at bay and stable in various patients.

LuGENE®is the first step to allow patients to live a more stable life,” Grammer said. “It allows the patients to know if a flare up is coming. I use the analogy of seismology with volcanos. Before seismology, the volcanos just blew up, and people suffered because of it.  But now, since flares can be forecast before they happen with information about what drug targets are abnormal, those living with Lupus have an opportunity to change medication to hopefully stabilize their disease.”

LuGENE® is currently available through the AMPEL ReLATE study at Cedars-Sinai in LA, the Arthritis & Osteoporosis Consultants of the Carolinas (AOCC) in Charlotte NC and Feinstein at Northwell Health.. The study is expanding to sites across the US including Arizona Arthritis & Rheumatology, Mayo Clinic, Providence Healthcare, Rush in Chicago, Hospital for Special Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, Univ of Maryland, Yale, MetroHealth at Case Western Reserve, U Mass, Duke and others. Physicians and patients enrolled at these centers will experience how the LuGENE® blood test informs lupus patient management.

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