May 10, 2002
Volume XXXV, No. 19

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Breakthrough research may yield treatments for lupus patients

PHOTO BREY

A major research effort by Dr. Robin Brey, professor in the division of neurology, yields new information about brain disorders in lupus patients. Dr. Brey found that 80 percent of lupus patients suffer from some sort of brain dysfunction. The results, published in the April 23 edition of the Journal of Neurology, lay the groundwork for a brain imaging study.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease affecting one in every 2,000 Americans. It occurs when the immune system begins to attack itself. Symptoms include severe arthritis, a skin rash, ulcers in the mouth and nose, hair loss, and brain dysfunctions such as depression, manic disorders, seizures and movement disorder.

"We know there are symptoms that relate to brain function in more than 80 percent of lupus patients at some time or another during their disease process," Dr. Brey said. "Now we are interested in discovering what is going wrong in the brain."

Dr. Brey conducted her research at the General Clinical Research Center, which is funded by the National Center for Research Resources. Her work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

The NINDS will now advance Dr. Brey's research with a new $621,235 grant. The funds enable Dr. Brey to launch a groundbreaking study using brain scans to pinpoint malfunctions in different regions of the brain.

"With imaging technology we can look at blood flow to the brain. We can see how well the brain is metabolizing glucose, and we can look at neurotransmitters to determine where they are located and whether they are doing what they are supposed to be doing," Dr. Brey said. "Eventually we will use this information to develop a treatment, either preventative or something that will help a patient already suffering from the disease."

Dr. Brey is collaborating with physicians at the UTHSC's Research Imaging Center to complete her research.


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