Research - Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases

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Principal Investigators Research Laboratories

The Division of Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases seeks the cure for a diverse group of systemic diseases affecting a wide range of organ systems, usually including the synovial joints and their surrounding connective tissues and bones. Although the cause of many of these illnesses is unknown, most share some form of immunopathology that leads to uncontrolled inflammation, pain, disability, and often tissue destruction. Some of these illnesses are better understood, such as the post traumatic and crystalline Arthropathies, Osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis; however, ongoing basic research in the Division and elsewhere is leading to an ever greater understanding of the autoimmunity that leads to systemic inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and Polymyositis/Dermatomyositis (PM/DM). The major academic effort of this Division is biomedical research in these areas.

The Research laboratories of Drs. Daniel Mueller, Erik Peterson, and Brian Fife are located in the Wallin Medical Biosciences Building (WMBB) on the 2nd and 3rd floor within the Center for Immunology.

The Research Laboratory of Dr. Brian Fife

The major focus of research in the Fife Lab is on the restoration of immunological self-tolerance for treatment of autoimmunity. Working with T cells, specifically CD4+ and CD8+, the Fife lab is investigating possibilities for a cure to be found for Type 1 Diabetes.

The Research Laboratory of Dr. Daniel Mueller

The major focus of the Mueller Lab is the investigation of the biological and biochemical mechanisms that underlie the maintenance of T-cell tolerance within the peripheral immune system. Investigations carried out by Dr. Daniel Mueller are leading to a better understanding of the biological and biochemical nature of immune self-tolerance. Of particular interest are those factors that determine whether prolonged and continuous antigen stimulation of a T-cell will lead to an increase in the clone size and the development of protective (or pathological) effector function, or lead to its functional inactivation (clonal anergy) and T-cell tolerance. Experiments are underway that investigate the repertoire of human autoreactive B cells in normals as well as in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

The Research Laboratory of Dr. Erik Peterson

The major scientific interest of the Peterson Lab lies in those molecules that regulate the development and function of the immune system and prevent or promote the development of autoimmunity. The laboratory strives toward several broad objectives. First, we aim to understand molecular mechanisms of action for “risk” genes recently associated with human autoimmune disease. Second, we work to identify molecular requirements for tissue-injuring inflammation that attends autoimmune syndromes. The laboratory uses primary human samples, transformed cell lines, and animal models to approach questions concerning the biochemical, cellular, and immune response-modulating functions of autoimmunity factors and susceptibility alleles.

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