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Spondylitis Association of America Funds Research to Cure Chronic Disease
One in every 100 people in the U.S. has spondyloarthrits, or informally spondylitis, the name given to a group of closely related rheumatic diseases that primarily affect the spine (spondylo) and other joints. While many strides have been made in the areas of diagnosis and treatment, there is not a cure – yet. Awards and grants funded by SAA provide tremendous opportunities to encourage rheumatologists and researchers to focus on the cause, improved quality of life, effective treatment options and an eventual cure for ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and related diseases.
The SAA/Bruckel Early Career Investigator Award in AxSpA, which was created in 2011, provides the recipient with a research grant for up to $20,000 to recognize their outstanding contributions to the care and understanding of patients with spondyloarthritis. For 2018, SAA also awarded grants for two new studies: a grant to support research for a pilot study on Microbiome of Offspring in Ankylosing Spondylitis (MOSAS), and a grant to support a spondyloarthritis pathogenesis research study.
"SAA is committed to helping researchers launch and complete innovative exploratory research to relieve the impact spondylitis has upon our community," says SAA CEO Cassie Shafer. "Through our grants, we strongly believe that we are providing researchers with the necessary resources, support, and opportunity to tackle important and unique research challenges and to find a cure," added Shafer. This fiscal year SAA has funded a total of $165,000 in research grants.
Recipients for the 2018 SAA/Bruckel Early Career Investigator Award in AxSpA include Dr. Maureen Dubreuil and Dr. Kristine Kuhn, PhD. Each will receive a $20,000 grant to continue their research efforts.
Dr. Dubreuil's research examines the complications of spondyloarthritis and the side effects of treatment. As a rheumatologist and researcher at Boston University and the Boston VA, Dr. Dubreuil also works to educate the next generation of doctors on evaluating patients with back pain and the care of those impacted by the disease. Her most recent research has focused on examining risks of heart attacks associated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in spondylitis patients as well as understanding treatment preferences.
Dr. Kuhn is a researcher and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Rheumatology. Dr. Kuhn's clinical and research interests are related to spondyloarthritis with a special emphasis for those with overlapping Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are two of the most common types of IBD. Research indicates that 30-50 percent of spondylitis patients will develop bowel inflammation and roughly 50 percent of patients with IBD develop disease outside of the intestines that affects their eyes, skin, and joints, and subsequently prompts their consultation with a rheumatologist.
To date, SAA has invested nearly $800,000 to support promising and innovative spondylitis research and remains committed to supporting additional research projects for the foreseeable future including exploratory and stop-gap research grants. Recipients of funding include Dr. Lianne Gensler, Dr. Joel Taurog, and Drs. Mark Asquith and James Rosenbaum.
Dr. Lianne Gensler is a rheumatologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center and the Director of the Ankylosing Spondylitis Clinic. Dr. Gensler, Dr. Matt Stoll and Dr. Matt Brown were selected to receive funding for their MOSAS research study. Multiple genetic and environmental factors result in the development of SpA diseases, including ankylosing spondylitis. In this study, Dr. Gensler et.al will evaluate children at increased risk of developing spondylitis based upon a family history of AS and positive HLA-B27 marker, comparing them to their HLA-B27 negative, and thus lower-risk siblings as well as to their disease-free parent. This will be the first study of its kind to evaluate the pre-disease microbiota in patients with a higher likelihood of developing arthritis.
Dr. Joel Taurog received stopgap funding to continue his research on the HLA-B27 allele, which is a variant form of a gene. HLA-B27 is an allele that confers an individual's susceptibility to the rheumatic disease ankylosing spondylitis. Dr. Taurog's research examines the various alleles of HLA-B27 and will potentially provide some new information that could help explain why some HLA-B27 is associated with AS while some HLA-B27 is not. This research could provide clues to preventing AS, and in the short term may also provide better medication treatments options.
Drs. Asquith and Rosenbaum's research focuses on the potential role for fungus or yeast in the pathogenesis of spondyloarthritis. Microbiota is the community of micro-organisms that inhabit the interior and exterior of the human body at various tissue sites. Drs. Asquith and Rosenbaum's research utilizes fungal microbiota to investigate a novel therapeutic strategy to reduce or prevent disease symptoms in AS patients.
SAA continues to advance the belief that supporting research will lead to an eventual cure. In the short-term, insights gained from these studies should also empower and engage clinicians and others in the medical community with opportunities to critically evaluate information such as patient interviews, physical exams and laboratory tests to formulate a diagnosis and devise new treatment options.
About the Spondylitis Association of America
Since our founding in 1983, the Spondylitis Association of America has been the leading national nonprofit providing educational resources, connections, and the critical emotional support that people living with spondylitis need. SAA is committed to increasing awareness of spondylitis, providing information and support to patients and their families, and funding research to ultimately uncover a cure for the disease.
To learn more about grantees, visit https://www.spondylitis.org.