The exact cause of lupus isn't known, but research suggests a mix of genetic and environmental influences.
Lupus can be hard to diagnose, since symptoms may mimic those of other diseases and can vary from patient to patient.
Researchers studying the genetics of lupus include Nilamadhab Mishra, MD, an assistant professor of rheumatology at Wake Forest University's medical school.
Mishra and colleagues have identified 40 genetic biomarkers of lupus. Those biomarkers are microRNAs -- tiny chains of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in a cell's command center (nucleus).
MicroRNAs are involved in cells' life, growth, and death; they can also help silence certain genes, Mishra's team notes.
Participants' blood samples were taken twice over three months.
Forty microRNAs were present at higher levels in the lupus patients than those without lupus, the study shows.
MicroRNAs "may be useful as biomarkers in human lupus," the researchers write.
Their findings will be presented on Nov. 14 in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals.
The results haven't yet led to the creation of a genetic blood test for lupus. But if the findings hold up in future studies, such tests might be possible.