Emily Baechler Gillespie, PhD

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

2005 Biomarkers, Human Lupus Biology

Dr. Baechler received an extension of the grant given to Timothy Behrens, MD

While many genes are believed to be involved in lupus, the discovery of one that appears with relative consistency means that genetic testing for lupus may be a possibility.

In LRI-funded work that she took over when Dr. Timothy Behrens left to work at Genentech, Dr. Baechler analyzed blood samples from people with lupus at various time points to determine whether certain serum proteins could be used to measure active disease and predict future flares.

In a group of 30 people, her team has shown that 4 serum proteins (chemokines) that are regulated by type-1 interferon can be used as biomarkers of SLE disease activity. The team's findings were published in a 2006 PLoS Medicine paper, and results collected from longitudinal data collected on 1,500 samples from 300 patients were presented the findings at an American College of Rheumatology meeting.

The test that Dr. Gillespie and her team developed has been licensed to a major clinical laboratory for development and could soon result in a test that quickly and easily enables patients and their physicians to determine when a lupus flare is imminent.

Such a test is critical because there currently is no way to predict when a person with systemic lupus is shifting from a cycle of remission, when the disease is relatively quiet, to a cycle of flare, when the disease is active and often very destructive.

“Although my lab continues to focus on SLE, the results of our LRI-funded project have led to collaborations in which the chemokine test is being evaluated in other autoimmune diseases. This shows the potential for our work in lupus to teach us more about other autoimmune diseases and potentially benefit additional patient populations.”

– Dr. Baechler, 2010

Select publications:

Interferon-regulated chemokines as biomarkers of systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity: a validation study. Arthritis Rheum. 2009 Oct;60(10):3098-107. Bauer JW, Petri M, Batliwalla FM, Koeuth T, Wilson J, Slattery C, Panoskaltsis-Mortari A, Gregersen PK, Behrens TW, Baechler EC.

Elevated Serum Levels of Interferon-Regulated Chemokines Are Biomarkers for Active Human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. PLoS Med. 2006 Dec 19;3(12):e491. Bauer JW, Baechler EC, Petri M, Batliwalla FM, Crawford D, Ortmann WA, Espe KJ, Li W, Patel DD, Gregersen PK, Behrens TW.

Ongoing funding:

In the winter of 2010, Dr. Baechler received official award notice of a $1.2 million grant from the Minnesota Partnership (and to be shared with the Mayo Clinic) to continue this work in identifying "pre-lupus" patients via the "chemokine test" that she first explored with the LRI grant. She previously received a $25,000 from the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota to build on her LRI work.

Rev. July 2010