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On June 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2018 Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations bill, which funds the country’s military and medical activities. Within that legislation, $5 million in funding was allocated to the Lupus Research Program — in addition to the $5 million that Congress provided earlier this year for 2017! With a total of $10 million in funds, this will certainly provide a boost for lupus research.

First of all, what is lupus?

According to The National Resource Center on Lupus by the Lupus Foundation of America, lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects your immune system. With lupus, your body can’t tell the difference between foreign bacteria or viruses and your body’s healthy tissues, therefore, your body can attack and destroy its own healthy tissue. This can cause inflammation, pain, and damage to all parts of your body — meaning skin, organs, and even joints can be affected.

How does this relate to rheumatology?

Because lupus is a disease that affects the joints, rheumatologists are commonly the doctors lupus patients see. Although people typically associate rheumatologists with arthritis, they also treat autoimmune diseases of the muscles and bones — such as osteoporosis and lupus. Throughout their schooling, rheumatologists are trained to spot signs and potential causes of joint inflammation, and can often diagnose a patient with lupus.

What were the driving forces behind getting this funding?

Conveniently, this funding was passed a few days after the Lupus Foundation of America’s National Policy Summit and advocacy day in Washington, D.C. With activists visiting over 200 Congressional offices, and thousands of others virtually participating, the U.S. government heard the message loud and clear: more funding needs to go towards lupus research.

What will the money be used for?

For years, research into this disease has been stagnant because the cause of lupus is so difficult to diagnose, and the true cause of it still remains unknown. However, this boost in funding will provide a plethora of new hypotheses to explore in terms of why and how people get lupus. For example, new and promising signs of potential breakthroughs in diagnostics, adult stem cells, environmental triggers, personalized treatments and more will be explored. In addition, clinical trials of medications will become more efficient and effective with new streamlined and modernized technologies that will developed.

With continued support from the community, government, and fellow rheumatologists, lupus can soon be defeated. This monetary boost will do wonders into research for the disease, and hopefully soon we will have a cause and appropriate treatments for lupus.