Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type





College of Natural and Health Sciences

Primary Advisor

Dr. Todd Schraw


Like so many autoimmune diseases, the exact cause of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) remains unknown. Evidence points to both genetics and environment playing roles in the onset of the disease, but neither acts independent of the other. Genetics are the easier of the two to study with recent advances in the field making it easier to isolate genes shared by individuals with the disease. However, genetic studies reveal that there is almost certainly an environmental component to the development of SLE. The underlying pathology and existing research on environmental contributors to the development of SLE suggest that viruses could potentially be an environmental factor that leads to the onset of SLE. Research has been done in the past in an attempt to establish a connection between viruses and the onset of SLE; however, these studies have been limited to providing circumstantial evidence due to the limits of existing technologies. A recent technology called VirScan developed by researchers at Harvard holds the potential to overcome the limitations of past research. The purpose of this thesis is to present an experimental approach to use VirScan to determine which viruses leading to the development of lupus.