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ACR News: Aboriginal community could provide clues in understanding arthritis for all consumers

Picture of Dr. Hani El GabalawyACE is sharing the latest research news from this year’s American College of Rheumatology annual meeting (ACR) in Washington, DC. 

The ACR is a gathering of more than 16,000 arthritis researcher, clinicians and patients from around the world to discuss the newest science about arthritis prevention, care and treatment. This week ACE will share the daily news from the ACR and interviews with arthritis leaders making a difference for you.

Arthritis can affect aboriginal people in North America differently than other ethnic groups. At a clinical symposium at the ACR – Rheumatic Diseases in Native Americans: What Can We Learn, How Can We Help? – conference attendees heard how the unique responses of aboriginal populations to arthritis have lessons for the rest of the arthritis community.

Native Americans tend to be more affected by arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus. Researchers suspect the reason for this higher prevalence is a combination of genetics, environmental factors, and immune system malfunction.

One of the presenters at the symposium on arthritis in the aboriginal community was one of Canada’s leading arthritis researchers, Dr. Hani El-Gabalawy, MD, MPH, FRCPC, Professor of Medicine and Immunology and Endowed Rheumatology Research Chair at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. El-Gabalawy told the ACR audience about his studies that have found a particular human antigen that is very prevalent in Native American populations and predisposes those populations to RA. Research that can be applied to people living with arthritis around the world.

All presenters highlighted the need for rheumatologist to work within the tribal healthcare system or to participate in outreach clinics. North American aboriginal communities usually don’t have convenient access to specialists, according to Dr, El-Gabalawy.

In a typical outreach clinic, the rheumatologist might come to the site one full day every three months. As part of that, the visiting physician also provides education to the local doctors on staff so they can be more comfortable treating arthritis between the rheumatologist’ visits.

Dr. El- Gabalawy and the other presenters also stressed the need for more academic research into arthritis among aboriginals and to consider we may have tailor arthritis therapies based upon racial, ethnic backgrounds as opposed to assuming that everybody with a certain type of arthritis has the same diagnosis, prognosis and outcomes – another call for “personalized medicine.”