Renowned Oklahoma researcher Judith James started as OMRF intern and never left

Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 By: Paula Burkes Source: NewsOK

Scientists don't yet know why some 1.5 million Americans have lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own healthy tissues. Symptoms surface mostly in women ages 16 to 34 and vary from rashes and joint pain to deadly organ failure.

Physician-scientist Judith James — in her 23 years at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation — and colleagues have uncovered facts like a higher incidence of childhood viruses among lupus patients or how patients' immune systems change following diagnosis.

But in the culmination of years of research, James is working with an Oklahoma City biotech startup — Progentec Diagnostics Inc. — to develop a test to predict, months in advance, when lupus patients will develop disease flares.

Simultaneously, she's spearheading clinical trials in hopes of slowing, or preventing, at-risk patients from developing lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune disease. Sisters of patients are being invited to participate, along with others who have rogue autoantibodies and other symptoms. A control group will receive a placebo, while a second will be given low doses of Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial that, thanks in part to James' research, has been shown to effectively treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, by turning down patients' immune systems.

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