Virginia scientists report a breakthrough in lupus treatment

Apr 5, 2024 | News, Lupus, Lupus 2022, Products

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RADIO IQ | By Sandy Hausman

When Mariana Sanders came to this country as an exchange student from Brazil, she got very sick. Her feet swelled terribly.

“I wear a size 6.5-7. The shoes that would fit my foot were like a size nine,” she recalls. “There were days I could not move my joints. Everything started getting very swollen. Everything started hurting in my body. It was like – Oh my God, what’s going on?

Back home, doctors diagnosed lupus and put her on medication to prevent so-called flares.

“A flare is a catch-all word that means your disease suddenly gets worse,” says Amrie Grammer.

She worked at the National Institutes of Health when scientists were mapping the human genome. Along with her colleague, Peter Lipsky, she founded a company in Charlottesville to use that information and millions of medical records to create a blood test that predicts whether a person is likely to suffer a flare in the next year. For 95% of patients the answer is yes – unless doctors can find the right drug to protect them.

“Often it’s five years if ever for doctor and patient to go through the trial and error journey to get to a medication regimen that works,” Grammer explains.

But the blood test, called LuGENE, also helps determine which drugs are likely to work best in each patient. Grammar says this is the promise of our medical future – offering personalized, precision care for every individual.

Mariana was given medication, but when she felt better, she stopped taking the drug. That decision led to the loss of a kidney and a great appreciation for LuGENE.

“It’s life-changing blood work. If I had that, I would have not lost my kidney.”

LuGENE is now available at no charge from medical centers at Duke, the University of North Carolina and the University of Maryland-Baltimore.

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