Lupus research gets a boost

24 February 2014

Dr Simon Jiang's postgraduate studies on understanding the devastating disease lupus has received a big boost - he is a recent recipient of a nearly $50,000 scholarship from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

"Lupus is a condition that often has devastating consequences, most commonly affecting women of child-bearing age," says Dr Jiang, who is based at the John Curtin School of Medical Research.

"Genetics are one of the greatest risk factors for developing lupus and yet it's estimated we understand only 15 per cent of the risk from our genes."

Dr Jiang, who is working alongside Professor Carola Vinuesa, has been using recently developed technologies to identify genetic mutations in patients with lupus and is demonstrating how these mutations disrupt normal immune function.

"Our work so far shows that very rare mutations often act together to disrupt our immune tolerance in patients with lupus, with significant implications for how we classify, diagnose, and treat lupus.

"By identifying genetic mutations and the parts of the immune system they disrupt, we may target our treatments with the promise of increasingly effective treatment with only a fraction of the drug toxicity."

Dr Jiang was one of two successful ANU researchers to receive funding. Dr Cameron Moffatt also received a scholarship to investigate the clinical burden of campylobacter infection, a leading cause of gastroenteritis in Australia.

The scholarships were announced last week by the Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton as part of $133 million in grant funding to help Australian health and medical researchers generate new health discoveries.