The objective of this Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center at the Medical University of South Carolina is the advancement of knowledge with respect to African Americans who have, or who are at risk of developing, systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis, and other debilitating rheumatic diseases. The Center is built on a solid framework of strong leadership in Rheumatology, Biostatistics and Health Disparities Research coupled with trust and a proven track record of recruitment of African American patients for clinical research. Objectives of the Center are to: 1) conduct and foster translational clinical research leading to improved diagnosis, management and ultimately a reduction or elimination of health disparities with respect to debilitating rheumatic diseases in African Americans;2) focus on identifying and understanding the underlying reasons for differences in risk profiles and disease progression for African Americans;3) provide information and education to patients and families, healthcare providers, the general public, investigators and health professionals at other academic health centers and government agencies. We propose two innovative, high impact projects supported by three cores. Project 1 will investigate a genetic variant observed in African American SSc patients likely to be responsible for their higher severity of pulmonary fibrosis. This is highly significant given the morbidity and mortality rates, especially related to lung disease, in these patients. Project 2 addresses another significant health disparity, the increasing prevalence of lupus among African American women. The Sea Island Gullah people of South Carolina and individuals living in the Gullah ancestral home of Sierra Leone provide a novel opportunity to study genetic, environmental and epigenetic differences that might identify key factors associated with the development of SLE in African Americans. These two projects and future pilot projects will be served by three cores: (1) a Methodology Core will provide rigorous methodological and biostatistical support;(2) a Patient Resource Core will assure investigators access to patients and biological samples from SSc and SLE patients enriched with African Americans;(3) an Administrative Core will coordinate the work of the Center through planning, development, coordination and overall administration. With a sustained commitment of strong institutional support and through a robust pilot project program, this MCRC will attract and nurture young investigators with research interests in minority health and rheumatic diseases.
The ultimate goal of the Center is to facilitate the translation of research to the clinical arena and to support much needed genetic and environmental research on rheumatic diseases affecting minorities and women disproportionately. The proposed projects and cores are focused on two autoimmune connective tissue diseases, scleroderma and lupus, each of which has profound implications for the health of the public, and each of which has a disproportionate impact on the African American community.
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