Jefferson awarded multi-million dollar NIH grant

December 09, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - The Department of Neurology at Jefferson Medical College (JMC) of Thomas Jefferson University has been awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the creation of a center of excellence to study autoimmune diseases from basic science research to its translation into clinical applications. The five-year grant initially totals over $4 million, but could be as much as $10 million by the end of award period. The center is one of nine in the country and the only one in the Pennsylvania.

"Our priority for this award and center is to translate basic science research into practical, clinical applications in autoimmune diseases," said Abdolmohamad Rostami, M.D. Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at JMC and at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital; director of the Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Research Laboratory; and director of the new center. "Primarily we will be focusing on multiple sclerosis (MS), and systemic lupus erthematosus (SLE), but we will also be investigating other autoimmune diseases like scleroderma. The center's team will investigate how these diseases are produced, with the ultimate goal of finding new and successful ways to treat them."

Currently, Dr. Rostami is investigating the role of Th17 cells, a pro-inflammatory T-cell subset, in MS and ways to suppress these cells in hope of finding better treatments for the disease. His laboratory has shown that interkeukin-27, a cytokine produced by T-cells, can suppress Th17 cells. They have also shown that IL-27 can block the onset or reverse the disease in animals with MS-like disorder. "It appears that one of the ways that recovery from an MS exacerbation occurs is that part of the immune system is shut off, suppressing the immune response in the brain. IL-27 through suppression of Th17 cells appears to be crucial in this process," said Dr. Rostami.
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Other researchers of the Autoimmune Diseases Center of Excellence at Jefferson are: Sergio Jimenez, M.D., professor, Department of Dermatology & Cutaneous Biology, director, Scleroderma Center, and co-director, Jefferson Institute of Molecular Medicine; Timothy Manser, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology; Thomas Leist, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Neurology; Guang-Xian Zhang, M.D., Ph.D, research associate professor, Department of Neurology; Bogoljub Ciric, Ph.D., research assistant professor, Department of Neurology; and Ziaur Rahman, Ph.D., research assistant professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology.

Thomas Jefferson University

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