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Women are 10 times more likely than men to develop lupus

Women are 10 times more likely than men to develop lupus, an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack healthy tissue and causes symptoms of fatigue, inflammation, muscle pain and sometimes significant damage to major organs. Research led by Chandra Mohan at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX suggests that the X chromosome contains a gene that seems to be linked to lupus, offering a possible explanation to why women are more at risk than men.

The gene is IRAK1, and researchers found that mice at risk for lupus but lacking IRAK1 did not develop common lupus symptoms, including kidney problems, high white blood cell count and over production of antibodies. An international and multicultural study of humans found that individuals with lupus as children or adults had three different variations of IRAK1 in common. This study using mice confirmed that link.

Researchers have previously theorized that hormone differences between men and women are the cause of more frequent occurrence in women. This is the first time a gene linked only to the X chromosome has been demonstrated as a factor in lupus. This research makes IRAK1 a major candidate for future genetic and functional analysis and research.

More research will need to be done to compare genes that are linked to the X chromosome with hormonal differences, with the aim of determining which factor is more significant in causing the rate of lupus to be so different between genders.

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