Dr. Niewold studies the pathogenesis of human autoimmune diseases, such as lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus), rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, and dermatomyositis. Dr. Niewold's laboratory is mapping the genetic factors that cause autoimmune diseases, and exploring the ways in which genetic variations alter the human immune response to result in disease. In lupus, he has established a large body of work demonstrating ways in which the normal immune response against viruses has been pathologically and persistently activated, resulting in autoimmune disease. Dr. Niewold also studies the different patterns of immune system activation that exist between people with the same autoimmune disease, as this should explain some of the heterogeneity in treatment responses we observe in autoimmunity.
- Genetic basis of lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus). In particular, Dr. Niewold and his colleagues study the ways in which genetic variations result in the altered immune responses which predispose to disease.
- Type I interferon in autoimmune diseases. This immune system signaling molecule normally provides defense against viruses, but is frequently abnormally activated in autoimmune disease.
- Heterogeneity in the molecular pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Patients who have the same condition often have different molecular pathways activated, and this information should allow for the development of individualized treatment strategies.
- Genetic studies in diverse populations. Different world populations have different rates of autoimmune diseases, and sometimes there are also differences in severity. Dr. Niewold and his colleagues study subjects from many different ancestral backgrounds with the goal of finding both shared and population-specific pathogenic factors.
Significance to patient care
The causes of human autoimmune disease are still unknown. Therefore, our current treatments for autoimmune disease are relatively non-specific, and result in fairly generalized immune system suppression. The work in Dr. Niewold's laboratory focuses on finding the causal molecules and pathways in human autoimmune disease. This knowledge will allow for the rational development of new therapies which target specific pathogenic molecules, and should also assist with establishing diagnoses and provide prognostic information in autoimmune diseases.
- Chairman of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCiS) Centers of Excellence, 2012-2015
- Scientific Advisory Board Member, American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation, 2012-2013
- Medical-Scientific Advisory Council Member, Lupus Foundation of America, 2011-present
- Advisory Editor, Arthritis and Rheumatism Journal, 2010-2013
- Associate Scientific Advisor, Science Translational Medicine Journal, 2011-2012