PLAN TO FIGHT AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES
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ANNOUNCES PLAN TO FIGHT AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced the release of a comprehensive research plan from HHS' National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fight autoimmune diseases, a collection of disorders including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis that affect an estimated 14 to 22 million Americans. The plan will foster research to identify genetic, environmental and infectious causes of autoimmune diseases and to develop new treatments and prevention strategies.
"Each year, millions of Americans suffer pain, illness and even
death as a result of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis
and other autoimmune diseases," Secretary Thompson said. "This
new research plan will guide our efforts to understand the
causes of these diseases and how we can better treat and prevent
them to improve people's lives.
The Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan provides specific recommendations on future research directions and demonstrates the commitment of HHS to continue a robust program of autoimmune disease research. The plan also calls for educating the medical community and the public about autoimmune diseases.
"This plan highlights many unprecedented opportunities to increase our understanding of autoimmune diseases at the population, individual and molecular levels, with a conceptual focus on the underlying mechanisms shared among many autoimmune diseases," said Elias Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health. "This strategy should ultimately allow the translation of new knowledge into more effective treatments and prevention strategies."
Autoimmune diseases result when the immune system attacks the body's own organs, tissues and cells. Physicians and scientists have identified more than 80 different autoimmune diseases. Some are well known, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and systemic lupus; others are less familiar, such as autoimmune hepatitis, Sjogren's syndrome and pemphigus.;
Highlights of the plan include the following.
- Cause of Autoimmune Diseases: The plan calls for researchers to identify the genetic and environmental factors that lead to autoimmune diseases and to investigate the relationship between them. Other studies will examine more closely what happens to the immune system during autoimmune diseases. To facilitate this research, new animal models of autoimmune disorders will be created.
- Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention: The plan calls for developing centralized, broad-based clinical research centers with the capacity to test potential new treatments and diagnostics with multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary clinical studies. The plan encourages public-private partnerships in creating new treatments. Scientists are also challenged to improve the screening processes that identify at-risk individuals.