National Institute of Arthritis and

Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)







Wednesday, March 14, 2001




Kelli Carrington or Susan Bettendorf

Office of Communications and Public Liaison, NIAMS

(301) 496-8190








Four major academic medical centers in the southeast United

States will soon be gathering data for investigators

interested in the genetics of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in

African Americans, with support from the National Institute

of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

The Institute, a component of the National Institutes of

Health (NIH), has awarded a research contract for the

Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluations of African

Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR) Registry

to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).  Other

participating centers are Emory University, the Medical

University of South Carolina and the University of North




The registry will provide clinical and x-ray data and DNA

to help scientists analyze genetic and nongenetic factors

that might predict disease course and outcomes of RA in

this population.  Certain genes that play a role in the

immune system are associated with a tendency to develop RA.

Some individuals without these genes may develop this

disease, while others who possess the genes never develop

RA.  Scientists believe that some environmental factors may

play a part, triggering the disease process in people whose

genetic makeup makes them susceptible to RA.



The investigators intend to register 600 participants.

Since there are currently no ongoing studies evaluating

early RA in African Americans, the investigators have

focused on this population.  African Americans are

underrepresented in most clinical studies, including

current observational studies of people with RA.

"Identifying any factor, genetic or otherwise, that may

predispose an individual to rheumatoid arthritis or provide

clues to an individual's disease outcome will greatly

improve our efforts to treat and ultimately prevent this

disease which affects so many people," said Stephen I.

Katz, M.D., Ph.D., NIAMS director.



"This registry of African Americans with early RA will be

critical in identifying risk factors, including genetic and

environmental, that point to a more aggressive disease

process," said Larry Moreland, M.D., principal investigator

of the CLEAR Registry.  "Ultimately, the ability to

identify patients very early in the disease process who

might have a worse long-term outcome will allow physicians

to provide better treatments for these patients."



Participating investigators are S. Louis Bridges, Jr.,

M.D., Ph.D., co-director of CLEAR at UAB; Doyt L. Conn,

M.D., and Janet McNicholl, M.D., at Emory University,

Atlanta, Ga.; Edwin Smith, M.D., and Gary Gilkeson, M.D.,

at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston;

and Beth Jonas, M.D., and Leigh Callahan, Ph.D., at the

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.



RA is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune

system attacks its own tissues.  It occurs in all races and

ethnic groups, and affects about two to three times as many

women as men.  Scientists estimate that RA affects the

lives of one percent of the adult population in the United

States, although young adults and children can also be

affected.  Symptoms and severity vary greatly among

individuals, and may include inflammation, pain, swelling,

stiffness and progressive loss of function in the joints.

It may also cause fatigue, occasional fever and a general

sense of not feeling well.  In some cases, the internal

organs and systems can become involved and ultimately




Patient enrollment for the registry is projected to begin

in late spring 2001. The project is funded under NIH

contract # N01-AR-0-2247.



The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and

Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is a component of the National

Institutes of Health. The mission of the NIAMS is to

support research into the causes, treatment and prevention

of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the

training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this

research, and the dissemination of information on research

progress in these diseases. For more information about

NIAMS, call our information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484

or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site




To interview Dr. Larry Moreland, contact Joy Carter, Office

of Media Relations, University of Alabama at Birmingham, at




To enroll in the registry, contact one of the following

individuals who will direct you to the appropriate

representative in each participating state:



Tina Parkhill (205-934-9368; e-mail: or

Fannie Johnson, R.N. (205-934-7427; e-mail:

The Spain Rehabilitation Center

University of Alabama, Birmingham

Arthritis Center Clinical Intervention Program

SRC 068, ZIP 7201

1717 6th Avenue South

Birmingham, AL 35294

fax: 205-975-5554