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January 27, 2017
Congressional Staff Tour NIAMS Labs

NIAMS recently welcomed congressional staff to the Clinical Research Center to learn more about NIH and NIAMS. 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 NIAMS research.

Dr. Mariana Kaplan (l) displays immunofluorescence images depicting neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), critical mediators of vascular damage in lupus patients. NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz (third from r) participates in a question-and-answer segment.
Dr. Mariana Kaplan (l) displays immunofluorescence images depicting neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), critical mediators of vascular damage in lupus patients. At right, NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz (third from r) participates in a question-and-answer segment.

PHOTOS: BILL BRANSON

Six congressional staffers took part in the visit, representing members from appropriations and authorizing committees, as well as personal offices. NIAMS Coalition co-chairs Mary Wheatley of the Rheumatology Research Foundation and Robert Riggs of the Scleroderma Foundation also participated in the event.

NIAMS scientific director Dr. John O’Shea introduced participants to the breadth of the work the intramural research program supports, from the basic and cellular level all the way to the clinic.

Dr. Michael Ombrello, head of the translational genetics and genomics unit, led a series of presentations with an overview of how his team is gaining new insights into the mechanisms that underlie inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.

Dr. Robert Colbert, chief of the Pediatric Translational Research Branch, discussed his latest research to understand how genetic susceptibility and changes in the microbiome intersect and may contribute to the development of certain types of arthritis.

Dr. Mariana Kaplan, chief of the Systemic Autoimmunity Branch, described her groundbreaking advances in the understanding of how diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis develop and how they can cause organ damage.

Katz and deputy director Dr. Robert Carter (standing, 10th and 12th from l) with congressional staff, NIAMS Coalition members and NIAMS staff at the recent NIAMS Tour Day
Katz and deputy director Dr. Robert Carter (standing, 10th and 12th from l) with congressional staff, NIAMS Coalition members and NIAMS staff at the recent NIAMS Tour Day

Dr. Peter Grayson concluded the lab presentations by discussing the importance of collaborative science for investigating rare diseases. He focused on the NIAMS Vasculitis Translational Research Program that he established in 2013 to develop clinical and translational research initiatives across many types of systemic vasculitis.

Following the lab tour, the group reconvened for a discussion led by NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz. Topics ranged from engaging and supporting the next generation of scientists and enhancing diversity in the biomedical workforce to reporting outcomes of research to the public.

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