The body’s immune system normally protects it from infection and disease. However, for the approximately 50 million Americans who have an autoimmune disease, their body’s tissues are attacked by its immune system causing illness most often marked by inflammation.
More common in women than in men, autoimmune diseases are the leading cause of morbidity among U.S. women, and the nation’s second-leading cause of chronic illness.
In February of 2018, the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Autoimmunity Institute at West Penn Hospital was opened to patients who suffer from a range of autoimmune diseases. The first of its kind in the world, the AHN Autoimmunity Institute combines multispecialty care with cutting-edge research, patient education and advocacy to advance the treatment of autoimmune diseases and accelerate the discovery of a cure for more than 100 different disease types.
“Autoimmune diseases can be particularly challenging with no singular test to diagnose most disease types. Symptoms can also change over time as the disease manifests itself in different ways,” said Susan Manzi, MD, MPH, Chair, AHN Medicine Institute and Director, Lupus Center of Excellence. “In search of care, patients traditionally have had to travel from one specialist to the next to the point that they can get lost while navigating the health care system. The AHN Autoimmunity Institute provides patients a one-stop-shop where a team of highly specialized caregivers works collaboratively to develop individualized treatment plans. Here, patients will not get lost.”
The AHN Autoimmunity Institute hosts four “Centers of Excellence” for the treatment of common autoimmune diseases, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease. Additionally, the Institute includes physicians from an array of clinical subspecialties such as rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology, pulmonary, dermatology, gastroenterology, nephrology, endocrinology, clinical pharmacology, cardiology, and infusion therapy. Combined, this team of physicians, nurses, researchers, and other professionals brings more than 150 years of expertise in the causes, symptoms, and treatment of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and related autoimmune disorders to our region.
A coordinated team of specialists quarterbacks each patient’s personal and comprehensive care plan, working closely together to address all
aspects of the patient’s health that autoimmune disease may impact. At the Autoimmunity Institute, patients may be able to see more than one specialist in a single visit.
To advance the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, a full-time research team at the Autoimmunity Institute’s onsite laboratory focuses on clinical trials, developing new diagnostic and prognostic tests for autoimmune diseases, and translating discoveries more rapidly into clinical application.
“Research is almost always disease-specific, taking place at separate centers of care, even though autoimmune diseases share many common traits. At the Autoimmunity Institute, the continuous backdrop of its research efforts is a multidisciplinary team of leading providers and clinical support staff, all with the ultimate goal of finding a cure for autoimmune diseases,” said Joseph M. Ahearn, MD, Chair, AHN Autoimmunity Institute.Physician-scientists within the Autoimmunity Institute have been highly successful in the commercialization of laboratory tests for the diagnosis, monitoring, and prognosis of autoimmune diseases. Dr. Ahearn and Dr. Manzi at the AHN Lupus Center of Excellence helped design Avise-SLE™– a blood test to help clinicians diagnose lupus with greater ease and accuracy. Avise-SLE, which became commercially available in 2012, uses one blood sample from a patient to check for five distinct biomarkers that help to rule-in the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus while ruling out other rheumatic diseases.
If you or someone you know needs helps with an autoimmune disease, or for more information, visit www.ahn.org/medicine/autoimmunity-institute or call (833) 242-8246.
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