The effectiveness of a person's immune defenses for detecting and destroying trespasser antigens depends largely on his or her HLA gene complex. Similarly, these genes are suspected of playing a role when the immune system mistakenly targets the body's own cells as foreign, which is the case with autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. The IHWG will accelerate investigations seeking to discover the fundamental mechanics of how HLA genes direct beneficial and harmful immune responses.
"The IHWG represents more than 30 years of collaborative research among the world's leading scientists in population-based genetics," says Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., director of NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. "Its extensive international network of laboratories will contribute importantly to NIAID's efforts to address the global health problems caused by infectious and immune-mediated diseases."
A primary goal for the IHWG is to create a searchable HLA database linking multiple interacting genes with function, ethnicity and disease. A more centralized database will make it easier for scientists to find and contribute new data. It also will help clinical investigators use the information as a platform for future research on immune-mediated diseases.
Other IHWG objectives include the following: