NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (center, standing) with patient-advocates, Arthritis Foundation staff and NIAMS staff
Photo: Bill Branson
U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) recently visited NIH along with juvenile arthritis patient-advocates from his region. Staff from the Arthritis Foundation also participated. The purpose was to learn more about NIAMS-supported research on juvenile arthritis.
The event began with a roundtable conversation between the visitors and NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz, deputy director Dr. Robert Carter, scientific director Dr. John O’Shea and deputy clinical director Dr. Robert Colbert, along with several intramural researchers who specialize in rheumatology and autoimmune diseases.
Frelinghuysen expressed his support for the work being done at NIH. He is a long-time friend of biomedical research and an advocate for NIH funding. The patients shared moving stories about the challenges they face living with arthritis. Most were diagnosed at a young age and have struggled to find effective long-term treatments. Katz assured them that while significant progress has been made, NIH continues to work hard to develop new therapeutics for different forms of arthritis.
Katz described how several ICs share an interest in arthritis and immuno-logy. He also explained how NIH supports the training of basic and clinical scientists and how it works with outside organizations such as the Arthritis Foundation to accelerate development of treatments through the Accelerating Medicines Partnership and networks such as the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance. Katz also elaborated on efforts to provide patients with reliable, science-based information about their diseases and conditions, which is available in several languages.
Colbert took the group to see the pediatric rheumatology clinic and then led them through two intramural research labs. They saw demonstrations that focused on basic, translational and “bedside-to-bench” studies currently under way. First, Dr. Massimo Gadina, director of the Office of Science and Technology, showed them two types of cell sorters that assist clinicians in both diagnosis and treatment. He described how this technology can help researchers visualize gene activity associated with autoimmune diseases.
Frelinghuysen and his guests then heard from Dr. Michael Ombrello, head of the translational genetics and genomics unit. He demonstrated a machine called the ultrasonicator, which uses sound energy to shear DNA into small pieces for analysis. He is using this technology to conduct genomic research on systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. He also discussed his current work investigating the causes of this severe disease and how this research may lead to targeted treatments for patients in the future.
“Everyone learned firsthand about the critical work of the NIAMS and the promising research it is doing,” said Frelinghuysen. One of the patients added, “It was a great experience to be able to share my story. I loved the lab tours and discovering the technology being used to find cures for diseases like mine.”—Sara Rosario Wilson