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Your Environment. Your Health.

Environmental Autoimmunity Group

Mechanisms of Autoimmune Diseases

Frederick W. Miller
Frederick W. Miller, M.D., Ph.D.
Deputy Chief, Clinical Research Branch and Principal Investigator
Tel 984-287-3593
Fax 301-451-5585
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop F1-09
Durham, N.C. 27709

Research Summary

Frederick W. Miller, M.D., Ph.D., is Deputy Chief of the Clinical Research Branch and head of the Environmental Autoimmunity Group. The mission of the Environmental Autoimmunity Group is to understand the mechanisms for the development of autoimmune diseases so that group members can extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. The group conducts a broad program of clinical, translational, and basic investigations in the area of adult and pediatric autoimmune diseases.

Rare Genome Institute

Antisynthetase Syndrome Ask the Experts Podcast Series, Session II - 11/20/2017

Featuring Dr. Sonye Danoff (Johns Hopkins Interstitial Lung Disease Clinic) and Dr. Frederick Miller (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the NIH Clinical Center)

The group uses multidisciplinary approaches to understand the roles of genetic and environmental risk factors for these diseases. Group members are currently focusing investigations on the Systemic Rheumatic Diseases. These diseases include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma) and the Idiopathic Inflammatory Myopathies (Dermatomyositis, Polymyositis, Inclusion Body Myositis and related Myositis Syndromes). These illnesses are heterogeneous groups of disorders defined by chronic inflammation and are prototypic autoimmune diseases.

The group supports studies at the NIH Clinical Center, which include epidemiologic surveys, molecular genetic studies, clinical investigations in disease pathogenesis, and the development of clinical tools for the assessment of innovative therapies.

Major areas of research:

  • Understanding the Mechanisms for the Development of Autoimmune Diseases

Current projects:

  • Environmental Risk Factors for the Anti-Synthetase Syndrome - An ongoing study enrolling patients who have been diagnosed with polymyositis or dermatomyositis in the past year. The purpose of this study is to attempt to determine what environmental risk factors may lead to the development of idiopathic inflammatory myopathy (IIM) overall and in particular what risk factors lead someone to develop one type of IIM over another.
  • Pathogenic Studies in Families with Twins or Siblings Discordant for Systemic Rheumatic Disorders - An ongoing study enrolling patients with polymyositis, dermatomyositis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, Lupus), rheumatoid arthritis, or systemic sclerosis (Scleroderma) who have been diagnosed within 47 months and if they have a healthy same sex sibling who was born within 47 months of the patient’s birthday. The purpose of this study is to try and determine different environmental and genetic risk factors that may contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases.
  • Environmental Risk Factors for the Development of Myositis in Military Personnel - An ongoing study enrolling patients who developed dermatomyositis or polymyositis while on active duty in the military. The purpose of this study is to evaluate for specific risk factors in the active military duty population that might predispose them to the development of IIM.

Miller oversees investigators in his group as well as others in national and international consortia that evaluate and conduct a wide range of basic and clinical studies on adult and juvenile autoimmune diseases. He obtained his M.D. and Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University, went on to medical residencies at Emory and Stanford, and then did rheumatology and immunology training at the NIH. His work in the field of autoimmune diseases spans three decades and involves many aspects of the environmental risk factors, epidemiology, immunology, genetics, pathogenesis, evaluation, and treatment of immune-mediated diseases.

Miller has focused much of his work on autoimmune muscle diseases, and has received a number of awards of distinction. He has authored or co-authored more than 270 research publications, reviews, books, and book chapters. He also co-established and is co-chair of the International Myositis Assessment and Clinical Studies Group (IMACS). Miller established the Myositis Genetics Consortium (MYOGEN) to define new genetic risk and protective factors for myositis and is heading up many studies to identify environmental risk factors for autoimmune diseases.

Relevance to NIEHS Mission

Our work is helping to identify new genetic and environmental risk and protective factors for myositis and other autoimmune diseases. Ultimately, we hope to define environmental risk factors for disease development and to understand the mechanisms involved in initiating illness. This may lead to preventive strategies to modulate environmental factors to decrease the severity of illness or even prevent its onset in genetically susceptible individuals.

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