The Division of Rheumatology and Immunology has been internationally recognized for investigations into the etiology of a variety of rheumatologic diseases of childhood. The division was the first to identify the genetic causes of several diseases of childhood that cause autoimmune disorders including the initial characterization of the gene causing immunodysregulation polyendocrinopathy enteropathy x-linked syndrome (known as IPEX syndrome) caused by mutations in the FOXP3 gene, defects in CD25 causing an IPEX-like syndrome and defects in STAT3 associated with STAT3 gain-of-function syndrome.
Current efforts are focused on elucidating the genes and immune system abnormalities that cause pediatric rheumatologic disease, with an emphasis on juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), juvenile dermatomyositis (JDMS) and primary immunodeficiencies. Clinical studies from the division have previously highlighted the utility of new therapies for pediatric rheumatologic disease, including anakinra (IL-1 receptor agonist) in treating systemic JRA and the potential use of rituximab (anti-CD20 reagent used to deplete peripheral B cells) in refractory JDMS patients. Clinical investigation within the division are currently focused on our involvement as a research center for the Childhood Arthritis Rheumatology Research Alliance.
The goal and mission of the Center for Pediatric Immunology is to advance the care of children with immune system disorders. The center is focused on providing scientific infrastructure for the investigation and therapy of pediatric inborn errors of immunity, with a focus on discovery of molecular (genetic) mechanisms of disease.
Tarin Bigley, MD, PhD
We study how viruses disrupt the immune system and contribute to autoimmune disease. Millions of people suffer from autoimmunity and the prevalence continues to rise. For most autoimmune diseases, the cause is unknown but viral infections are suspected to play a role. Despite this link, there is limited data demonstrating a direct causal role for viral infections in autoimmune disease. We have found that neonatal infection with roseolovirus induces autoimmunity by disrupting the processes that normally limit the development of autoreactive T and B cells. Our initial studies suggest that this occurs due to infection of the thymus.
Megan Cooper, MD, PhD
The Cooper is focused on mechanisms of immune cell control, including regulation of natural killer cell activation and molecular mechanisms driving pediatric immune-mediated disease.
Anthony R. French, MD, PhD
Our research focuses on the interface between the host innate immune system and large double-stranded DNA viruses and how interactions at this interface may influence the initiation of inappropriate autoimmune responses in rheumatic diseases. We are particularly interested in natural killer (NK) cells, innate lymphocytes that play a critical role in early anti-pathogen host defense…