NIAMS IR Partners Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2001

Historical document

Inside this issue:

Community Health Center Opens

Photo: Hilda Madura, certified nursing assistant, at NIAMS' new Community Health Center The NIAMS Community Health Center, in the Cardozo/Shaw neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., opened in July 2001. Located in the heart of a multicultural community, the center's opening is a big step in NIAMS' Health Partnership Program, an effort to reduce health disparities. The center's focus is on the treatment of rheumatic diseases. It offers members of the community access to specialty care and health information that was not readily available before, and will provide learning opportunities in rheumatic diseases for health care professionals.

A patient visit begins with a nurse practitioner who screens for symptoms of rheumatic diseases. If symptoms are found, patients are referred to a rheumatologist for specialized medical attention. They are offered enrollment in the Institute's Natural History Study of Rheumatic Diseases. In this study, physicians observe the course of disease while treating patients with standard medical procedures and medications. Patients sign a consent form and maintain the option to withdraw from the study at any time. Patients also have opportunities to participate in other clinical studies run by the NIAMS and other institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Since not all medical services are available at the health center's Washington location, radiologists, physical therapists, and other medical professionals at the NIH have joined the medical team to provide additional help. Patients who need x rays, magnetic resonance imaging, lab work, and physical therapy are referred to NIH's Clinical Center. To give patients a smooth transition to the NIH facility, a liaison/escort who is trained to provide information and companionship accompanies patients to their medical appointments.

A soothing color scheme and practical, efficient design create a relaxed and open atmosphere at the health center. Some of the staff are bilingual in English and Spanish, which helps ensure that medical services are sensitively provided to patients whose dominant language is Spanish. Within the center's 600 square feet fit a reception area, nurse's station, consultation room, four exam rooms and seven computer workstations. Three of the exam rooms have exam tables, dressing closets, sinks, medical supplies and computer workstations. A fourth exam room holds a large comfortable chair that patients use while receiving intravenous treatments. It also contains a video monitor so patients can view health education programs.

The center is located at 3020 14th street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, next to the Columbia Heights Metro station. Hours of operation for patient services are:

Monday 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Tuesday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Call 202-673-0000 for more information.

From the Scientific Director

Photo: Dr. LipskySummer was a busy season for the Intramural Research Program. We started with a terrific scientific retreat where we shared research progress in the labs and branches and announced some of our future plans. We also welcomed the chief of our new Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch, Dr. Rocky Tuan, to the Institute. And we're especially pleased to tell you about the opening of our Community Health Center in Washington, D.C.

In this issue, you'll also learn about the Patient Representatives Group who, at their latest meeting, made some suggestions for the newsletter. One of them, to provide some health facts for our readers, has already been incorporated. Additionally, we include a story on the briefing NIAMS held about the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a partnership among government and private companies to develop scientific resources to better understand and combat osteoarthritis. We plan to share with you future updates on some of the projects we're working on. Stay tuned!

Peter E. Lipsky, M.D., Scientific Director
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal
and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health

NIAMS Holds Osteoarthritis Initiative Briefing

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several pharmaceutical companies have formed a unique partnership to develop the scientific resources to better understand and combat osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that is a major cause of disability in people 65 and older. NIAMS and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) held a July 17 briefing on the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) at the Cloisters on the NIH campus.

This initiative is the product of a collaboration among several partners: NIAMS; NIA; and the pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis and Pfizer. The Foundation for the NIH, Inc., is facilitating the collaboration. Other NIH partners in the OAI are the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the Office of Research on Women's Health and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Photo: NIAMS Director Stephen Katz and NIA Director Richard J. Hodes. The OAI represents a commitment by the partners to develop new resources to discover and confirm which biological and structural markers signal the onset and progression of osteoarthritis. Over the 5- to 7-year course of the study, the OAI will collect clinical information, biospecimens, and imaging data from 5,000 people who are at high risk of developing osteoarthritis or have early disease.

Currently, new drug development for osteoarthritis is hindered by the lack of objective and measurable standards for disease progression. The OAI will enable scientists to follow the disease progress of osteoarthritis by a variety of methods, with the ultimate goal of determining which markers predict disease onset and progression. While there have been some advances in treating pain related to OA over the years, there are currently no accepted means to slow or actually stop the destruction of the cartilage in affected joints.

NIAMS will award contracts for several clinical centers to recruit participants for the study and a data coordinating center to establish and maintain the database of clinical and imaging data as well as a biospecimen repository. All data and images collected will be available to researchers worldwide to help quicken the pace of scientific studies and biomarker identification. The data will not be licensed, patented or owned by anyone. Qualified scientists interested in doing further research on osteoarthritis will have free access to the clinical information and images in the database.

Tuan Named Chief, NIAMS Cartilage
Biology and Orthopaedics Branch

Rocky S. Tuan, Ph.D., former director of the Orthopaedic Research Laboratory at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, recently joined the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) as chief of its new Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch. He will develop a multidisciplinary research program that focuses on skeletal biology, cartilage diseases such as osteoarthritis, and orthopaedics, fields in which he has extensive and widely recognized expertise.

"Dr. Tuan brings to the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch a unique blend of scientific leadership," said Peter Lipsky, M.D., NIAMS' scientific director. "He is internationally renowned for his pioneering work in deciphering the cellular mechanisms regulating cartilage development. His research accomplishments span multiple disciplines, including developmental biology, cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, and the emerging area of tissue engineering."

Photo: Dr. Rocky S. Tuan Musculoskeletal problems are some of the most chronic, costly and debilitating diseases that affect public health, and they compromise daily life for millions of Americans. Many skeletal diseases are currently not treatable. The cartilage biology and orthopaedics program will target the basic biology of musculoskeletal diseases and the application of tissue engineering technologies to create a national resource in this critical and underserved area of research. "Medical research in this area currently lags behind some other disciplines, and the NIH has an opportunity to make a significant difference in this field," said Dr. Lipsky. "Having a scientist of Dr. Tuan's experience and caliber will allow the NIH to address this important area of public health need. The basic cartilage biology, osteoarthritis and orthopaedic research programs that Dr. Tuan will create and implement will be a vital component of a larger trans-NIH National Center for Musculoskeletal Medicine."

Dr. Tuan received his doctorate in 1977 from Rockefeller University in New York City. He served as a research fellow and then an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. From 1980 to 1988, he was an assistant and then associate professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1988, he has served as professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Thomas Jefferson University. In addition to being named director of the Orthopaedic Research Laboratory in 1988, he became vice chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1996, and, in 1998, director of the Cell Tissue and Engineering Ph.D. Program at Thomas Jefferson University.

Dr. Tuan has authored numerous papers and is a member of editorial, advisory and review boards of the leading journals in his fields, including the Journal of Arthroplasty, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, Molecular Biotechnology, Biology of the Cell and the Journal of Orthopaedic Research. He has an impressive history as a trainer and mentor of a significant number of Ph.D. and graduate researchers. He established the nation's first Ph.D. program in Cell and Tissue Engineering at Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Tuan has received numerous honors and awards, and is a popular speaker. He was a former study section chair and member of the Advisory and Oversight Committee of the NIH Center for Scientific Review.

Retreat Remarks Unveil New Initiatives

The Intramural Research Program (IRP) held its annual retreat June 3-5 at Airlie House in Warrenton, Va. NIAMS' Scientific Director, Peter E. Lipsky, M.D., in reporting on the state of the IRP, discussed several new initiatives in IRP's future. NIAMS plans to:

  • Establish a new National Center for Musculoskeletal Medicine to be housed at the National Naval Medical Center. NIAMS and three other NIH Institutes will focus their resources on bone, cartilage and related research. The center will provide a forum for scientists from many disciplines to concentrate their expertise on the musculoskeletal system, a critical and understudied area of research.
  • Develop a Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch. NIAMS hopes to expand the knowledge base about cartilage, and to educate and train researchers from many disciplines who can continue working toward an understanding of cartilage tissue and the diseases that affect it.
  • Build a Genetics and Genomics of Rheumatic Diseases Branch, which will attempt to find certain regions in DNA that may make people susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Develop a bioinformatics program to help researchers analyze data produced by IRP scientists. The program will assist scientists working in genomics and structural biology, as well as other areas of the Institute.

Dr. Lipsky commended NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., for providing increased resources for the intramural program. "Dr. Katz's support of the intramural research program has been unwavering," said Dr. Lipsky. "Increased funding allows us to continue our investments in research and gives us a terrific opportunity to do marvelous science."

Dr. Katz spoke as well, emphasizing that the research conducted at NIAMS has the support of Congress, the President and the American people. "We are an Institute of chronic diseases. We don't receive funding because these diseases have high mortality rates, but because we can improve the quality of people's lives." He was pleased to be a part of the retreat. "It's great to see people coming together to share knowledge and technology," said Katz. "This is an opportunity not just to promote collegiality, but for scientific interchange."

Dr. Katz encouraged the participants to mentor young employees, scientific or administrative. He added that acting as a mentor himself has been one of the most satisfying aspects of his career. He also encouraged staff to promote diversity in the workplace, suggesting the summer intern program as one means to allow young minority students to explore science as a career.

Dr. Lipsky and Dr. Katz answered questions from staff and discussed ideas about employee recognition as well as the development of a grant award for which intramural scientists could compete.

The retreat included oral presentations from guest speakers and scientists working in NIAMS laboratories, as well as several poster sessions featuring the work of scientific and administrative staff.

Photo: Dr. Lipsky at podium Photo: Dr. Katz talks with Dr. Davis
Peter E. Lipsky, M.D., welcomes retreat participants and gives an IRP update. Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D. (L), talks with the Sunday evening plenary session speaker, Roger Davis, Ph.D., from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Photo: Eileen Webster-Cissel and Melinda Nelson Photo: Eileen Remmers, Ph.D., Leepo Yu, Ph.D., and presenter Konstantin Miiroshinkov, Ph.D.
Eileen Webster-Cissel (L), contracts management officer, and Melinda Nelson, grants management officer, prepare "Use of the Research and Development (R&D) Contract Mechanism" poster. (From left) Elaine Remmers, Ph.D., and Leepo Yu, Ph.D., discuss a poster with presenter Konstantin Miroshnikov, Ph.D.
Photo: Hana Haleem Smith and Robert Horowitz, Ph.D. Photo: Participants Lyn Eyre and Andi Ricche
Hana Haleem Smith discusses her poster with Robert Horowitz, Ph.D., at the Monday morning poster session. Retreat participants Lyn Eyre (L) and Andi Ricche, administrative officers, enjoy the weather during a lunch break.

Patient Representatives Meet

The NIAMS Patient Representatives Group met at the Clinical Center on May 5, where the Institute's Barbara Mittleman, M.D., gave the group an update on the progress of the community health center. She answered questions about services the center will provide and the logistics of transporting patients, when necessary, between the center and the NIH campus.

Participants reviewed recent issues of IRPartners and suggested:

  • A health tips feature with Web addresses where readers can get more information
  • Information about the results of completed clinical studies
  • Lists of new NIAMS publications and how to order them.

You will see these suggestions incorporated over time. Additional reader feedback is welcome.

The Patient Representatives Group meets approximately three times a year on Saturday mornings. If you are interested in joining, contact Janet S. Austin, Ph.D., Public Liaison Officer, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, NIAMS (phone: 301-496-8190; email: austinj@mail.nih.gov). Patients, family members, NIAMS employees and anyone else interested in contributing to the group may come to the meetings or otherwise provide feedback to the Institute.

Did You Know? . . .

Exercise can benefit people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and joint problems.

  • Range-of-motion exercises (for example, stretching) help maintain normal joint movement, relieve stiffness and increase flexibility.
  • Strengthening exercises (for example, weightlifting) help keep or increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help support and protect joints. Studies have shown that strengthening the quadriceps muscles can reduce knee pain and disability associated with osteoarthritis. One study shows that a relatively small increase in strength (20-25 percent) can lead to a 20-30 percent decrease in the chance of developing knee osteoarthritis.
  • Cardiac fitness and endurance exercises (for example, bicycle riding) help with weight reduction. Excess pounds put extra stress on weight-bearing joints, such as the knees or hips. Studies have shown that overweight women who lost an average of 11 pounds substantially reduced the development of osteoarthritis in their knees. In addition, if osteoarthritis has already affected one knee, weight reduction will reduce the chance of its occurring in the other knee.

Want to know more? Take a look at these NIAMS booklets:

Handout on Health: Osteoarthritis

Handout on Health: Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Many Shades of Lupus: Information for Multicultural Communities

Questions and Answers about Arthritis and Exercise

Questions and Answers about Arthritis Pain

Questions and Answers about Shoulder Problems

Questions and Answers about Knee Problems

Contact the NIAMS at 1-877-22-NIAMS (free call), TTY: 301-565-2966. Check our Web site at: www.niams.nih.gov/hi.

Speaker graphic
Need an NIH Speaker?

The NIH Speakers Bureau is a service that lists NIH researchers, clinicians and other professionals who are available to speak to school groups and other local and national organizations. Speakers have expertise in such areas as arthritis, osteoporosis, autoimmunity and several dozen other topics covered by the NIH. To find out more about this service, sponsored by NIH's Office of Science Education, visit its Web site at: https://science-education.nih.gov/spkbureau.nsf .

NIAMS Has Free Health Information

NIAMS has free health information (some in Spanish) available to the public, health professionals and organizations. Information is available on arthritis, lupus and other rheumatic diseases; skin disorders; joint problems; and musculoskeletal diseases. Our most recent booklets are:

Handout on Health: Scleroderma

The Many Shades of Lupus: Information for Multicultural Communities

Questions and Answers about Arthritis and Exercise

Questions and Answers about Knee Problems

Questions and Answers about Raynaud's Phenomenon

Questions and Answers about Scoliosis in Children and Adolescents

Questions and Answers about Shoulder Problems

Questions and Answers about Vitiligo

Questions and Answers about Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Contact the NIAMS at 1-877-22-NIAMS (free call), TTY: 301-565-2966. Check our Web site at www.niams.nih.gov/hi. Many of our publications can be printed directly from our site.

Free information on osteoporosis, Paget's disease of bone, osteogenesis imperfecta, primary hyperparathyroidism, and other metabolic bone diseases and disorders is also available from the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases~National Resource Center (NIH ORBD~NRC). Contact the NIH ORBD~NRC at 1-800-624-BONE, TTY: 202-466-4315, or at www.osteo.org.


National Institute of Arthritis
and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases/NIH

Building 31, Room 4C02
31 Center Drive, MSC 2350
Bethesda, MD 20892-2350

Produced by the National Institute of Arthritis
and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases/NIH
Office of Communications and Public Liaison

Building 31, Room 4C02
31 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: 301-496-8190
Fax: 301-480-2814
E-mail: bettends@mail.nih.gov
Web site: www.niams.nih.gov

Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., Director

Peter E. Lipsky, M.D., Scientific Director

Barbara B. Mittleman, M.D., Director,
Office of Scientific Interchange

Rachel Moore Weller, Editor

Susan Bettendorf, Associate Editor