Group of people standing together
Caption: NIAMS deputy director Dr. Robert Carter and scientific director Dr. John O’Shea (sitting, 6th and 3rd from l) with congressional staff, NIAMS Coalition members and NIAMS staff at the recent NIAMS Tour Day.
Credit Chia Chi Charlie Chang

”Having the opportunity to tour the NIAMS labs, visit where patients are cared for, and hear about cutting edge research from leading investigators was a memorable experience.” -Anna Hyde, NIAMS Coalition co-chair and vice president of Advocacy and Access at the Arthritis Foundation.

Anna recently joined Capitol Hill staffers to tour the NIH Clinical Center, see inside NIAMS labs, and hear from researchers as part of NIAMS Congressional Tour Day. This biennial event is sponsored by the NIAMS Coalition, an independent consortium of approximately 90 professional and voluntary organizations whose goal is to raise awareness about NIAMS research.

NIAMS deputy director Dr. Robert Carter opened the morning event by providing an overview of the NIH and NIAMS mission and history of research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases. NIAMS scientific director Dr. John O’Shea emphasized NIAMS current efforts to engage and support the next generation of scientists.

Dr. Timothy Bhattacharyya, head of Orthopaedics Research in the Clinical Trials and Outcomes Branch, discussed a 5-year multi-disciplinary investigation into the cause of the “candle-wax bone” disease, melorheostosis, and how the group identified a genetic cause for the disorder.

Participants next visited a patient exam room in the outpatient clinic. Dr. Heidi Kong, head of the Cutaneous Microbiome and Inflammation Section of the NIAMS Dermatology Branch, illustrated how the institute’s microbiome studies on healthy volunteers and patients with atopic dermatitis are helping to unravel the complex relationship between microbes and skin disease.

Research nurse performing mock experiment on patient
Caption: Dr. Heidi Kong (r) explains, as her research nurse performs a mock procedure, how skin microbiome samples are collected from patients. NIAMS Coalition co-chair Stephanie Hazlett (sitting) volunteered for the demonstration.
Credit Chia Chi Charlie Chang

Dr. Mariana Kaplan, chief of the Systemic Autoimmunity Branch, explained how her team’s research is revealing clues into the causes of lupus and associated heart attack risk, and how a type of immune cell, neutrophils, may contribute to the onset and severity of lupus.

Finally, Dr. Andrew Mammen, head of the Muscle Disease Unit in the Laboratory of Muscle Stem Cells and Gene Regulation, shared a 13-year-old patient’s self-made video story of hope and healing after a life-altering diagnosis. Through this success story, Mammen underscored the importance of continued studies for children with genetic nerve and muscle disorders.

The day highlighted NIAMS work to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability by supporting basic, translational, and clinical research that will make a difference for patients. The event offered visitors opportunities to personally interact with NIAMS researchers and staff, which led to discussions on the past, present, and future impact of NIH research.