Lupus Patients Often Lose Memory, Become Moody – Columbia Research Explains Why

(New York -- Dec. 15, 2006) -- New research led by Columbia University Medical Center demonstrates how lupus, an autoimmune disease that is the most common cause of stroke in young women, causes cognitive and emotional problems in patients, such as forgetfulness and irritability. These behavioral issues have increasingly become an issue as new treatments have dramatically increased the survival rate of lupus patients – illuminating the long-term damage caused by this devastating disease.

Led by Betty Diamond, M.D., chief of the Division of Rheumatology and director of the Lupus Clinic, the study’s findings demonstrate that a subset of anti-DNA antibodies found in lupus patients cross interact with receptors in the brain that are involved in learning and memory, called NMDA receptors. Dr. Diamond and her team found that if these antibodies are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the central nervous system, cognitive or emotional disorders result.

The study, “Human lupus autoantibodies against NMDA receptors mediate cognitive impairment” is published in the Dec. 11-15, 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

These findings are significant because they were confirmed in both animal (mouse) and human models.

To speak with Dr. Diamond or for additional information, please contact Elizabeth Streich, Columbia University Medical Center at 212-305-6535 or

About Lupus

Lupus is a disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissues, resulting in crushing fatigue, painful joint swelling, and persistent skin rashes. For hundreds of thousands of people — mostly women — this is their daily reality. For people with lupus, every day tasks like getting out of bed can be a huge challenge.

Age of onset is generally mid-late 20s, but African-Americans tend to get more severe disease and earlier onset.

Lupus can affect any organ system in body; more devastating problems include kidney disease, blood clots, central nervous system disease and joint disease.

Lupus is genetic and believed to be influenced by environmental triggers (not well understood yet) - sunlight is one known trigger.

The Lupus Foundation of American estimates that 500,000 are affected; experts (including Dr. Diamond) believe the number of affected people may be as high as one million.

Symptoms of lupus are frustratingly vague, making it difficult to diagnose. Diagnosis is made by a variety of clinical examinations and blood tests.

### Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and public health professionals at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions.


Betty Diamond, Dental Medicine, Elizabeth Streich, Lupus Clinic, NMDA