Research Programs

Overview

The research activities of the Section of Rheumatology extend from laboratory based basic science investigations to patient care initiatives aimed at improving diagnosis and treatment. Our research laboratories enjoy excellent support from federal agencies (such as the National Institutes of Health) and private foundations (such as the Arthritis Foundation). The success of our research derives from strong interactions and collaborations with other entities at The University of Chicago interested in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune diseases. All basic researchers in the Section of Rheumatology are members of the Committee on Immunology, an interactive group that comprises all faculty members of The University of Chicago with a research interest in Immunology. The Committee on Immunology includes world-renowned lymphocyte experts, including Albert Bendelac, the Committee’s chairman, Harinder Singh and Ursula Storb. In addition, the basic researchers of the Section of Rheumatology have strong ties with The University of Chicago Knapp Center for Lupus and Immunology Research, a research center lead by the member of the National Academy of Sciences, Martin Weigert, a leader in the field of B cell biology.

Clinical research activities of the section include the testing of diagnostic methods and therapeutic agents developed either at The University of Chicago or under outside auspices such as pharmaceutical manufacturers or colleagues in the academic community nationwide. Current and recent testing of therapies developed at The University of Chicago includes studies aimed at modifying the course of disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and scleroderma. Patients are also involved in studies on systemic lupus, osteoarthritis, gout, and inflammatory muscle disease.

Basic Research

The basic research in the Section of Rheumatology focuses on the biology of T and B lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are essential for the elimination of microbial pathogens and tumors, but are also responsible for the development of autoimmune diseases and the rejection of transplanted organs. Understanding how T and B lymphocytes develop and become activated is important to create the new generation of immunosuppressive agents that target selective lymphocytes responsible for disease.

The basic research team comprises Marcus Clark, M.D., Chief of the Section of Rheumatology and Professor of Medicine, Maria-Luisa Alegre, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Fotini Gounari, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, and Patrick Wilson, Ph.D.,  Professor of Medicine.

Clinical Research

Clinical research studies have been undertaken in the Section of Rheumatology at The University of Chicago for more than three decades. The primary aims of clinical research program in the Rheumatology Section are to advance knowledge in specific diagnostic and therapeutic areas of clinical science and to expedite the delivery of advances in basic biological and social sciences to patient care. Through basic and clinical research insights achieved by Section faculty and faculty colleagues at The University of Chicago, the Rheumatology Section has frequently been able to offer its patients early access to novel diagnostic and therapeutic advances in important areas of contemporary rheumatologic science. The section faculty has also participated in multi-center cooperative analyses aimed at achieving a more sophisticated understanding of the courses, manifestations, and management of a number of important rheumatic diseases. In addition, the Section has actively pursued studies (often under the sponsorship of the National Institutes of Health and/or pharmaceutical and bio-technology companies) of promising diagnostic modalities and of new pharmaceutical and biological agents in the treatment of major arthritic and immunologic diseases.