A: This is positively far and away the most prestigious award I’ve ever received. It’s a very humbling experience. I’m completely blown away.
You Might Also Like
Explore This IssueDecember 2010
Also By This Author
Henry Kunkel Young Investigator
Mariana J. Kaplan, MD
Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor
Background: A 15-year ACR member, Dr. Kaplan’s research focuses on the identification of mechanisms that lead to organ damage in systemic autoimmune diseases. She has proposed a new paradigm for the pathogenesis, as well as a potential treatment, of premature atherosclerosis that complicates autoimmune diseases, particularly lupus. Dr. Kaplan proposes that there is a profound imbalance between vascular damage and vascular repair in lupus, with a critical role for Type 1 interferons. The enhanced vascular damage and impaired repair induced by these interferons may also be implicated in the progression of kidney disease in lupus through a vaculopathic effect. She also is identifying the role of anomalies in antigen-presenting cells in lupus pathogenesis, particularly neutrophils and dendritic cells.
Dr. Kaplan is a member of the ACR/REF Scientific Advisory Council and the Lupus Foundation of America. She is section editor of the Journal of Immunology, as well as advisory editor for Arthritis & Rheumatism. She has been elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation.
Q: What should rheumatologists in clinical practice know about your research?
A: We are trying to identify potential targets that are implicated in the development of chronic complications in patients with lupus and other autoimmune diseases. As patients live longer, they accrue significantly more damage and the blood vessels are an important target.
Identifying Type 1 interferons as crucial culprits in the development of premature vascular damage could lead to significant changes in prevention strategies. Now that clinical trials that block Type 1 interferon effects in lupus and other diseases are ongoing, identifying these molecules as potentially very important in damage of the blood vessels may lead to changes in the paradigm of how we treat these diseases and prevent their complications.
Q: What specifically attracted you to lupus research?
A: It’s a disease that affects mostly young women and significantly impacts their quality of life; the multisystemic nature of the disease; the lack of understanding of what leads to the loss of self-tolerance. And then that there is so little known and so much to learn about these diseases. There is a high potential for significant improvement of their quality of life, if we better understand how autoimmunity starts, evolves, and perpetuates.