It has become increasingly clear that breakthroughs in the study of rheumatic and allergic diseases are linked closely to breakthroughs in basic immunology, cell biology, genetics, and other fundamental sciences. The newest treatments for rheumatoid arthritis involving TNF cytokine and receptor blockade represent excellent examples of the obvious relationships between basic research and new therapeutics. Thus, the program is firmly founded by laboratories that establish a base in fundamental research in areas that have relevance to rheumatic diseases. By and large, these laboratories focus on one aspect or another of basic immunology, although a particular laboratory may utilize primarily cellular, biochemical, cell biological, molecular biological, or genetic approaches. Further, it is now widely appreciated that advances in understanding one example of inflammation or autoimmunity hold important lessons for different diseases that share common mechanisms of pathology. Thus, the lessons learned from conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or inflammatory bowel disease or from the recruitment and function of leukocytes in infectious conditions all bear important lessons and form the framework for understanding rheumatic and inflammatory diseases in general.
Divisional researchers are working on basic mechanisms of antigen presentation, inflammatory cytokine production, and the immune response to mycobacterium tuberculosis. These studies will determine the direction of disease-focused research.