Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Five new research grants on the neuropsychiatric aspects of lupus have been
funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin
Diseases (NIAMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The grants, totaling more
than $1.2 million for FY 2002, include both basic and clinical research studies.
Co-funding was provided by the Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH).
"These research grants will increase our understanding of the disease's
nervous system complications. Neuropsychiatric symptoms can be particularly
distressing for people with lupus and their families," said Stephen I. Katz,
M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIAMS.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that mainly
affects women of childbearing age. Common symptoms of SLE may include painful
or swollen joints, unexplained fever, skin rashes, kidney problems, and extreme
fatigue. In addition, there are a wide variety of associated neurological
and psychiatric syndromes, which have been placed under the heading of Neuropsychiatric-SLE
(NP-SLE). Examples include stroke, depression, inflamed cerebral blood vessels,
seizures, headaches, and cognitive dysfunction (disordered thinking). NP-SLE
affects more than 20 percent of lupus patients and is one of the major causes
of death among people with lupus. The following projects will apply new tools
and approaches to the discovery of the underlying causes of NP-SLE. Ultimately,
this may lead to improved diagnosis and treatment for patients with NP-SLE.
The new studies include:
Brain Connections, Michelle Petri, M.D., Johns Hopkins University,
Baltimore, Md. Investigators in this multicenter study will measure cognitive
dysfunction and biological changes and will perform brain imaging in newly
diagnosed neuropsychiatric lupus patients. This work could lead to the discovery
of early disease mechanisms that may be responsive to treatment. Brain
Cell Death in MRL Mice: Targets and Mechanisms, Boris Sakic, Ph.D., McMaster
University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The mechanisms responsible for cell
death in the brains of autoimmune mice with lupus-like neuropsychiatric symptoms
will be investigated. Central nervous system malfunctioning and its effects
on behavior will be assessed. New research approaches to understanding the
progression of central nervous system damage are likely to be uncovered.
Cognitive Dysfunction in Neuropsychiatric SLE, Michael Lockshin,
M.D., Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, N.Y. This research will combine
clinical, biological and imaging approaches to identify subgroups of SLE patients.
SLE patients will be followed to determine the relationship between imaging
abnormalities, a specific receptor antibody, lupus symptoms and heart disease.
By studying the biological mechanisms underlying lupus brain injury, this
research will assist in redefining the progression of cognitive dysfunction
in SLE patients and will suggest new targets for treatment.
Antibodies to NR2 in SLE, Betty Diamond, M.D., Albert Einstein College
of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y. In this project, the mechanism of brain dysfunction
in SLE will be examined. Antibodies that bind to the DNA of people with lupus
can also bind to the NR2 receptor on neurons and cause cell death. Mouse models
of SLE will be studied using brain imaging and other measurements to test
antibody binding to the NR2 receptor as a possible pathway to the neurological
symptoms some people with lupus experience. This project will help to build
a scientific foundation for the development of therapies to prevent central
nervous system damage in lupus.
Identifying Genes for Neuropsychiatric Lupus, Mishra Nilamadhab,
M.D., Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C. This
study seeks to discover the genes responsible for the neurological symptoms
of lupus by examining mouse models. Uncovering the genetic basis for neuropsychiatric
lupus is a necessary precursor to the development of targeted therapies.
The award of these grants is the result of a special solicitation for research
applications, AR-01-007, entitled "Neuropsychiatric Systemic Lupus Erythematosus"
This RFA was based in part on the scientific opportunities identified in the
workshop "Neuropsychiatric Manifestations of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus"
held at NIH in May 1999. A summary of the workshop can be found at http://www.niams.nih.gov/ne/reports/sci_wrk/1999/reportnmsle.htm.
For more information on lupus, contact:
American College of Rheumatology
1800 Century Place, Suite 250
Atlanta, GA 30345
1330 West Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: 404-872-7100 or
800-283-7800 (free of charge)
or your local chapter listed in the telephone book
Lupus Foundation of America
1300 Piccard Drive, Suite 200
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 301-670-9292 or
800-558-0121 (free of charge)
or your local chapter listed in the telephone book
149 Madison Avenue, Suite 205
New York, NY 10016
Phone: 212-685-4118 or 800-74-LUPUS (745-8787) (free of charge)
The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and
Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services'
National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment,
and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the training
of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research, and the dissemination
of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information
about NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877)
22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site at http://www.niams.nih.gov.
The Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) was established in September
1990 within the Office of the Director, NIH. ORWH works in partnership with
the NIH institutes and centers to ensure that women's health research is part
of the scientific framework at NIH and throughout the scientific community.
For more information about ORWH, call (301) 402-1770 or visit the ORWH Web
site at http://www4.od.nih.gov/orwh/.