NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NIAMS Labs Welcome Congressional Staff

A mock demonstration of how skin microbiome samples are collected.
Dr. Heidi Kong (r) explains, as her research nurse performs a mock procedure, how skin microbiome samples are collected from patients. NIAMS Coalition co-chair Stephanie Hazlett (seated) volunteered for the demonstration.

Having the opportunity to tour the NIAMS labs, visit where patients are cared for, and hear about cutting edge research from leading investigators was a memorable experience,” said Anna Hyde, NIAMS Coalition co-chair and vice president of advocacy and access at the Arthritis Foundation.

Hyde recently joined Capitol Hill staffers to tour the Clinical Center, see inside NIAMS labs and hear from researchers as part of NIAMS Congressional Tour Day. The biennial event is sponsored by the NIAMS Coalition, an independent consortium of approximately 90 professional and voluntary organizations whose goal is to raise awareness about the institute’s research.

NIAMS deputy director Dr. Robert Carter opened the morning event by providing an overview of the NIH and NIAMS mission and history of research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases. NIAMS scientific director Dr. John O’Shea emphasized NIAMS’s current efforts to engage and support the next generation of scientists.

Dr. Timothy Bhattacharyya, head of orthopaedics research in the Clinical Trials and Outcomes Branch, discussed a 5-year multidisciplinary investigation into the cause of the “candle-wax bone” disease—melorheostosis—and how the group identified a genetic cause for the disorder.

Group shot of the Tour Day group.
NIAMS deputy director Dr. Robert Carter (seated, second from r) and scientific director Dr. John O’Shea (seated, third from l) with congressional staff, coalition members and NIAMS staff at the recent Tour Day.

Participants next visited a patient exam room in the outpatient clinic. Dr. Heidi Kong, head of the cutaneous microbiome and inflammation section of the NIAMS Dermatology Branch, illustrated how the institute’s microbiome studies on healthy volunteers and patients with atopic dermatitis are helping to unravel the complex relationship between microbes and skin disease.

Dr. Mariana Kaplan, chief of the Systemic Autoimmunity Branch, explained how her team’s research is revealing clues into the causes of lupus and associated heart attack risk and how a type of immune cell, neutrophils, may contribute to the onset and severity of lupus.

Finally, Dr. Andrew Mammen, head of the muscle disease unit in the Laboratory of Muscle Stem Cells and Gene Regulation, shared a 13-year-old patient’s self-made video story of hope and healing after a life-altering diagnosis. Through this success story, Mammen underscored the importance of continued studies for children with genetic nerve and muscle disorders.

The event offered opportunities for visitors to interact personally with NIAMS researchers and staff. Such small group chats led to discussions on the past, present and future impact of NIH research.

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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