Scientists at the Benaroya Research Institute were recently awarded a one-year grant from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build a Down syndrome (DS) biorepository to research the connection between autoimmune disease and DS.
The non-profit institute was founded in 1956 and is part of Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle, Washington State, USA. The mission of the Benaroya Research Institute is to eliminate autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as immune system diseases such as allergies and asthma.
As an internationally-recognized medical research institute, BRI accelerates discovery through laboratory breakthroughs in immunology that are then translated to clinical therapies. BRI is a leader of collaborative initiatives including the Immune Tolerance Network, Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet and other major cooperative research programs.
The BRI already has an autoimmune disease biorepository, otherwise known as a biobank, a collection of blood, serum and tissue samples, as well as medical histories, from volunteers with and without autoimmune and immune system diseases.
The NIH grant will help fund a new dedicated DS biorepository for people with DS both with and without autoimmune diseases, who are willing to donate a blood sample and provide health information for scientific research.
The DS population has been underrepresented in medical research, especially considering nearly 50 percent of this population have an autoimmune disease (AID), among other immune system diseases.
DS is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. People with DS are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases. Conversely, they are also less likely to develop certain types of cancer. The two may be linked.
BRI will apply its depth and breadth of knowledge about the immune system to the DS population to better understand why people with DS are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases and develop more treatment options, with the ultimate goal of discovering ways to prevent autoimmune disease from occurring.
To do this, BRI will:
- Build a DS registry and biobank with the goal of sharing samples across the scientific communities studying DS.
- Actively recruit volunteers with and without autoimmune diseases from the DS community and their families and friends.
- Establish a relationship with DS-Connect® patient registry that will assist in including DS in clinical trials.
“Individuals with DS have up to a 100-fold increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease, particularly type 1 diabetes, thyroid and celiac diseases,” … “Due in large part to a lack of research, our understanding of why people with DS are so prone to autoimmunity is limited. However, BRI hopes to change this with the support of the new trans-NIH INCLUDE Project (INvestigation of Co-occurring conditions across the Lifespan to Understand Down syndromE).”
“BRI is among the first to be awarded this type of grant dedicated to the DS population and autoimmune disease, and we will apply the tools that we have developed to study autoimmune and allergic diseases in the general population to Down syndrome,” … “We are proud to have such a central role in this research.” – Jane Buckner, MD, president of BRI and principal investigator