MIAMI–Grant recipients of the Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) campaign–the ACR Research and Education Foundation’s (REF’s) $30-million research effort–traveled to South Florida recently to update each other on their projects. Perhaps just as important, they came to listen. The lively discussions included suggestions for refining projects and ideas for teaming up with other researchers.
The research that was presented covered a wide range of basic, translational, and clinical studies.
David Karp, MD, PhD, chair of the Scientific Advisory Council of the REF, said he hopes the gathering of the investigators strengthens what is already considered a powerful group of research projects.
“Early on, it was clear that it was essential to have the investigators come together and talk to each other about the projects that were funded,” Dr. Karp said. “That’s pretty unusual—if you get a grant from the NIH [National Institutes of Health], the NIH doesn’t necessarily bring together all of the grant recipients even on a particular topic to discuss and collaborate on their research. But in this case, because one of the goals of Within Our Reach is to actively promote arthritis research in the U.S. and to get new ideas and to get new projects going, it’s really been very beneficial to have all the researchers come together and not only show their progress but to get ideas and feedback and establish collaborations.”
So far, 25 Within Our Reach projects have been completed and 24 grant recipients have been awarded an additional $59 million in related grants from the NIH.
Here is a summary of some of the projects, now under way, that were presented in Miami.
Is the Lung Where RA Begins?
The cause of RA might not be known but, given that antibodies tied to RA are present well before any signs of disease show up in the joints, it’s thought that the origin of the disease might be somewhere outside the joints.
One key suspect is the lungs: Smoking is a strong risk factor for RA, dust and pollution might increase the risk of getting RA, and there is a high prevalence of lung disease in RA patients, even in early stages.
Kevin Deane, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver, is looking for definitive evidence that the lung is, in fact, that starting place for the disease.
Dr. Deane, who received an ACR REF grant in 2009, is studying imaging and lung function of individuals at risk for future RA to see if those with RA antibodies show signs of pulmonary disease compared with those without those antibodies. He also plans to mine samples for further signs of lung involvement in the development of RA.