Karen Costenbader

Mid-career Tenured Researcher, Mass General Brigham

1 active project

SLE case-control

We are interested generally in risk factors for developing autoimmune diseases, in particular but not limited to systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, at the population level. We are interested in environmental risk factors (air pollution, heat, pesticides, etc.), psychosocial…

Scientific Questions Being Studied

We are interested generally in risk factors for developing autoimmune diseases, in particular but not limited to systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, at the population level. We are interested in environmental risk factors (air pollution, heat, pesticides, etc.), psychosocial factors (stress, emotional distress, trauma, PTSD, depression, resilience), social determinants of health (access to food, work, housing, neighborhood factors) , and behavioral lifestyle factors (smoking, alcohol, exercise, obesity, diet, work hours, etc.). We are interested in characterizing the sociodemographics of the populations affected and estimating the population attributable risk for each of these factors and in combinations. When genome-wide data are available, we will be interested in genetic risk factors for autoimmune diseases, and how they may interact with environmental risk factors to produce immune dysregulation and then disease.

Project Purpose(s)

  • Disease Focused Research (Autoimmune diseases)
  • Population Health
  • Social / Behavioral
  • Methods Development
  • Control Set
  • Ancestry

Scientific Approaches

We plan to assemble cohorts of individuals with incident and prevalent autoimmune diseases (concentrating on SLE and RA, but also investigating other related autoimmune diseases) and matched controls to investigate the prevalence of these risk factors, populations most affected, magnitude of the risk estimates and population attributable risks. In cross-sectional analyses, we will use logistic regression models.

Anticipated Findings

We have previously studied many of these risk factors, and their interactions with genetic factors, among women in the prospective Nurses' Health Study and to an extent in the Black Women's Health Study, the Women's Health Study, and Roxbury Lupus Study. These studies have all been limited to females, had mainly older adult participants, and have had limited racial and ethnic diversity. For these reasons, we aim to confirm and extend our research into more diverse population-based cohorts and expect that all of these factors will be associated with risk of these autoimmune diseases. We intend to examine the magnitudes of effects observed and the population attributable risks. These studies will contribute greatly to our knowledge of autoimmune disease risk factors, both modifiable and non-modifiable, and potential pathogenesis of these complex diseases, in diverse US populations.

Demographic Categories of Interest

  • Race / Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Geography
  • Access to Care
  • Education Level
  • Income Level

Research Team

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