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Lindsey Ann Criswell, MD, MPH

Professor of Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Medicine – Rheumatology

Pesticides and Chemical Exposures, DNA Methylation, and SLE Phenotypes

It is believed that both genetic and environmental risk factors play a role in causing lupus. Unfortunately, very little is known about the role of environmental exposures in the disease, including the effects of pesticides and other chemicals that may turn genes on and off by a process called DNA methylation. Previous research has shown that patients with severe cases of lupus have had changes to their DNA through methylation, but how and why this occurs is still poorly understood.

In this groundbreaking study, she will determine whether particular chemical exposures influence DNA methylation and disease outcomes in lupus. Dr. Criswell will do this by using a new, pioneering technology to analyze blood samples from patients with severe cases of the disease. This innovative technology enables her team to analyze the samples for hundreds of chemicals at a time — the first time this type of research has been conducted in lupus. They will then be able to determine what role, if any, exposure to these different chemicals has had on patients with severe manifestations of lupus.

What this study means for people with lupus

The more researchers can learn about what causes lupus, the more they can do to treat and possibly prevent this debilitating disease. In Dr. Criswell’s novel research, her team will be using cutting-edge technology to analyze the influence of hundreds of chemicals on blood samples from lupus patients in the hopes of discovering how pesticide and chemical exposures may result in severe forms of the disease.

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