National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

For Immediate Release
Friday, March 30, 2001 

Contacts: Kelli Carrington 
Office of Communications 
and Public Liaison, NIAMS 
(301) 496-8190

New Rheumatic Diseases Research Core Centers have been established at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati and at the University of Pittsburgh with support from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Research activities at the two core centers will benefit children and adults with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.

The new centers will provide resources for established, currently funded investigators to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to common research problems in rheumatic diseases. Scientists in other biomedical fields will be encouraged to apply their expertise to rheumatic diseases. The centers will also provide information on new research methods and progress to other investigators and to the community.

"Close collaboration among basic and clinical researchers representing several professional disciplines will enrich the productivity and effectiveness of ongoing studies and promote new research," said Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIAMS.

Under the leadership of Raphael Hirsch, M.D., professor of pediatrics, the core center at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati will concentrate on understanding the causes of, and finding novel approaches for treating, pediatric rheumatic diseases. The center will be composed of five cores: 1) a repository to make tissues available to researchers, 2) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor disease progression, 3) identification of cells involved in rheumatic diseases, 4) data processing and bioinformatics, and 5) administrative support to coordinate project activities.

Two pilot studies will be undertaken by the center. The first will examine the relationship between a protein produced in response to inflammation and the activation of the inner cells of blood vessels in the synovium (a lubricating tissue surrounding movable joints) of children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The second will study the effects of certain enzyme inhibitors on the production of antibodies against a child's own tissues in lupus nephritis, a kidney disease.

Research at the University of Pittsburgh core center will be guided by Timothy M. Wright, M.D., chief of the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology in the Pittsburgh Arthritis Institute, which was established at the university through NIAMS support in 1998. The center includes four cores: 1) molecular biology, 2) analytical cytometry (blood cell count), 3) biostatistics and 4) administration. Themes that will be addressed include gene therapy, autoimmunity, the biology of cytokines, genetics, novel approaches to treatment, and biomechanics and biochemistry of cartilage and connective tissues. Pilot projects at the center will involve the use of engineered viral agents to prevent infection following total joint replacements, and a study of the relationship between mechanical loading (exertion of force) and the development of tendinitis.

For interviews, contact:

Raphael Hirsch, M.D. 
Children's Hospital Medical 
Rheumatology, Pavilion Bldg. 
333 Burnet Ave., Room 2-129 
Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039 
(513) 636-8027

Timothy M. Wright, M.D. 
Center University of Pittsburgh 
Med/Div of Rheumatology and 
Clinical Immunology 
7th Floor, Biomedical Science Tower 
Pittsburgh, PA 15261 
(412) 624-9028

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is a component of the National Institutes of Health. The mission of the NIAMS is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research, and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about NIAMS, call our information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call).

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