Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Children's to receive arthritis grants

$2.4 M will help find genetic trigger

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Children's Hospital Medical Center is expected to receive $2.4 million in grants today to finance a hunt for the genetic causes and a possible cure for juvenile arthritis.

        Juvenile arthritis is a general term that includes any child under 16 suffering from debilitating joint pain and inflammation caused by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other similar conditions. An estimated 13,750 children in the Tristate suffer from juvenile arthritis.

        The grants, from the Jacob Schmidlapp Trust managed by Fifth Third Bank, the Arthritis Foundation's Ohio River Valley Chapter and the Wasie Foundation of Minneapolis, Minn., will focus on expanding “gene chip” technology at Children's Hospital.

        By using this new technology, scientists expect to make what would be 20-year's worth of progress in five years,said Dr. Thomas Boat, director of the Children's Hospital Research Foundation.

        Unlike some diseases caused by a single genetic defect, experts believe that 50 to 100 genes may be involved in juvenile arthritis. To attack such a complex problem, scientists plan to use gene chips, which contain a variety of chemical receptors that can be used to compare multiple genes at once.

        Such chips could be used to search for genetic triggers to juvenile arthritis. They also could be used to monitor how animals, and ultimately people, react to experimental treatments.

        “We are now at a point in time scientifically when major new technologies can be brought to bear on childhood diseases,” Dr. Boat said.

        Children's Hospital has a history of expertise in this field. Last year, the hospital led a national study that reported up to 75 percent of children with severe arthritis responded to the drug Enbrel, made by Immunex Corp. And earlier this year, the hospital became one of two nationwide designated by the National Institutes of Health as a Rheumatic Diseases Research Core Center.

        Fifth Third Bank has supported juvenile arthritis work at Children's Hospital. The hospital's rheumatology division, formed in 1962, is named after William S. Rowe, a former president and chairman of the bank.


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