Autoimmune Technologies - Applied Biomedical Science

Areas of Research


Systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus, is a diffuse connective tissue disease that is characterized by fever, headache, rash, and joint inflammation, sometimes in combination with pleurisy, involvement of the kidneys or other organ systems, and other symptoms. The course of the disease is very difficult to predict.

Increased awareness of lupus in recent years has tended to result in the detection of milder cases, and there may be between one million and two million lupus patients in the United States. As with other autoimmune diseases, most lupus patients are female.

Lupus can be difficult to differentiate from other disorders in the early stages of the disease. While most lupus patients test positive on the antinuclear antibody (ANA) fluorescence test, many individuals without lupus are also ANA-positive. There currently is no laboratory test that is specific for lupus.

Research studies suggest that lupus is associated with a retroviral particle called Human Intracisternal A-Type Particle, or HIAP. Antibodies to this virus have been found in a very high percentage of patients with lupus. These antibodies have also been found in a very high percentage of patients with three other autoimmune disorders: Sjögren's syndrome, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and Graves' disease.

Researchers believe that all four disorders may result from infection by HIAP and that individual genetic factors such as HLA haplotype may help to determine the specific symptoms which are experienced by the infected person. Support for the possibility that HIAP infection is in fact the cause of these four disorders is provided by a study by Steinfeld et al (Rheumatology 1999;38:814-817), who showed a dramatic improvement in Sjögren's syndrome patients who were treated with the anti-retroviral drug AZT.

Several patents cover HIAP in the U.S. and other countries. Autoimmune Technologies has licensed the HIAP technology from Tulane University in order to develop diagnostic tests and therapies for lupus and the other disorders. For information about diagnostic testing, go to the Lupus Laboratory Test Page.

This material is not intended to take the place of a physician's advice.


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