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What Is NIAMS?
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is one of 27 Institutes and Centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s premier biomedical research agency. Established in 1986, the NIAMS focuses on diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and skin. The Institute uses its annual budget of about $600 million to support research, train researchers, and communicate scientific advances.
Diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and skin are major chronic health problems that impact nearly every household in America. They cause pain, disability, and in some cases, premature death. They affect people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and economic levels. Many of the conditions have a disproportionately high impact on women and racial minorities. The NIAMS is committed to understanding and addressing these disparities.
The NIAMS aims to understand and find new treatments for conditions such as:
- Autoinflammatory diseases
- Back pain
- Connective tissue diseases, such as Marfan syndrome
- Hair loss disorders, such as alopecia areata
- Muscular dystrophy
- Orthopaedic injuries and implants
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne
NIAMS Extramural Research Program
The NIAMS funds basic and clinical research nationwide through its Extramural Research Program. Through a highly competitive peer-review process, the Institute awards grants and contracts to universities, hospitals, and other research organizations.
Through extramural support, the NIAMS advances research in rheumatology, muscle biology, orthopaedics, bone and mineral metabolism, and dermatology. For example:
- The NIAMS is leading the NIH Back Pain Consortium Research Program (NIH BACPAC). Lower back pain, one of the most common forms of chronic pain in the United States, often leads to opioid use. The BACPAC program, a part of the NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM Initiative, brings together patients, doctors, and researchers to understand and develop personalized treatments for lower back pain.
- Psoriasis, which causes scaly inflamed skin, can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and psoriatic arthritis. The NIAMS supports research to predict and manage these associated health problems in psoriasis patients.
- Past NIAMS funding led to the discovery of the genetic basis of a rare, inherited form of rickets called X-linked hypophosphatemia. This research paved the way for the recent development of Crysvita (burosumab-twza), the first drug to treat the disease.
- NIAMS-supported researchers found that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can quickly detect even tiny improvements in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Now, pharmaceutical companies and universities are using MRI in clinical studies of DMD.
- The NIAMS participates in a public-private partnership called PROGRESS OA: Clinical Evaluation and Qualification of Osteoarthritis Biomarkers. The project aims to use imaging and blood biomarkers to predict and assess damage caused by this common joint disorder.
NIAMS Intramural Research Program
Scientists and scientists-in-training in the NIAMS Intramural Research Program conduct high-risk, high-reward basic, translational, and clinical research on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. They can pivot quickly to address emerging scientific opportunities and needs, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of intramural work are below.
- Several intramural researchers are examining how the bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms on our skin (the skin microbiome) interact with our immune systems to promote health and, when things go awry, drive disease.
- Injuries in our mouths heal quicker than wounds on our skin. NIAMS intramural scientists recently discovered one reason why: In the mouth, genes needed for wound healing are always “on.” In the skin, they’re not. This knowledge may lead to new ways to treat problematic skin wounds, such as non-healing foot sores associated with diabetes.
Many other examples of NIAMS-supported research can be found on the NIAMS website.
Upper image strip (left to right): Lab-grown human muscle, Nenad Bursac and Lauran Madden, Duke University. Tumor cell (YAC-1), Davide Randazzo and Hannah Dada, NIAMS Light Imaging Section. Skin carcinogenesis, Elaine Fuchs, Rockefeller University. Skin from genetically modified mouse (Srf knockout), Tatiana Efimova and Maria Morasso, NIAMS Laboratory of Skin Biology. Skin-muscle interface in developing mouse limb, Sarah Lipp and Sarah Calve, University of Colorado, Boulder. Drosophila intestine, Katti Prasanna, Muscle Energetics Laboratory (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute).
Lower image strip (left to right): Mouse muscle stem cells grown in culture, Kevin A. Murach, Charlotte A. Peterson, and John J. McCarthy, University of Kentucky. The periodontal complex, Atsuhiro Nagasaki, NIAMS Laboratory of Oral Connective Tissue Biology. Merkel cell carcinoma, Anna Lin, NIAMS Cutaneous Development and Carcinogenesis Section. Neutrophil extracellular traps, Luz Blanco and Mariana J. Kaplan, NIAMS Systemic Autoimmunity Branch. Bone development and healing, Paul R. Odgren, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester. Osteochondroretricular stem cells, Timothy C. Wang, Columbia University.
Connect With NIAMS
NIAMS Information Clearinghouse
Toll free: 877-22-NIAMS (877-226-4267)
TTY: For telecommunications support, dial 711
En español: niams.nih.gov/espanol
Subscribe to NIAMS Newsletters
NIAMS Update is a monthly digest published for those interested in the latest scientific news and resources on diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and skin.
NIAMS Community Outreach Bulletin is an online digest designed to inform community advocates and health professionals about resources for diverse audiences on conditions of the bones, joints, muscles and skin and ways to stay healthy.
The NIAMS Funding News and NIAMS Funding Alerts are a set of newsletters featuring grants and funding information. NIAMS Funding News provides monthly updates on news, resources and funding opportunities. NIAMS Funding Alerts feature high priority funding announcements as they become available (approximately 1-4 a month).