Researcher Profiles

At CADRe, we’re proud to have some of the top researchers in the autoimmunity and rheumatology fields as part of our team of researchers. We are excited by the work they’re doing to advance research in the fields of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Type 1 diabetes and more, and we’d like to share their enthusiasm and passion for finding a cure for autoimmune diseases with you. Click on any individual researcher listed below to read more about their background, their work, and their motivation to be a member at CADRe.

Researcher: Dr. Daniel Mueller, MD

Researcher: Dr. Daniel Mueller, MD

Portrait of Dan Mueller

For Dr. Daniel Mueller, the fight against autoimmune disease is about connections. Dr. Mueller is fascinated by similarities between diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus—and the collaborations between dedicated researchers necessary to find a cure for them.

That’s why Mueller and his colleagues chose the acronym CADRe—signifying a dedicated, specialized team—for their new University of Minnesota research center.

Mueller currently serves as the Director for the Division of Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases at the University’s Department of Medicine. Through increased contact with coworkers both in and out of the division, Mueller realized that their independent work would benefit from greater collaboration and an increased focus on developing the department’s research infrastructure. To that end, he and his colleagues formed CADRe in 2012.

CADRe brings together researchers currently engaged in the study of autoimmune-caused or related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type I diabetes, scleroderma, and vasculitis.

By investigating a variety of autoimmune diseases, CADRe’s labs hope to identify and combat shared diseases characteristics. Mueller sees a strong need for CADRe’s particular idea of a holistic focus: “All autoimmune diseases involve fundamental problems that need to be solved. Studying several at the same time will give us unique insights into the nature of these related diseases.”

In addition to his leadership role as the center’s director, Mueller conducts his own research related to T and B cells and their relationship to autoimmune arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus.

While Mueller’s research involves several specific diseases, it also involves one of the central problems in autoimmune disease treatment.

“Most of the current treatments are suppressing the whole immune system, leading to problems with inflection down the road. My research is focused on the immune system’s ability to discriminate between tissues--we want it to only attack the ‘bad’ cells and leave the good to function normally.

 We want to develop the tetramer technology to allow us to see and identify disease-provoking lymphocytes among a whole array of autoimmune diseases, not just bulk T and B cells. Once we have that tetramer technology, we can probe autoimmune patients while they’re being treated, to see if their auto-reactive T and B cells are being turned off by the treatment.

Right now, we are taking it on faith that that is what’s happening, because we can’t see how the process unfolds—we only have the end result to go on.

For example, treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is heterogeneous. Patients might only be responding to one particular component protein. If we could identify which protein the patient is responding to, we could make a non-immuno suppressive treatment that is designed specifically to work best for each particular patient.”

Development of that kind of tetramer technology would have a major impact on the search for a cure for autoimmune disease. And it’s part of Mueller’s vision for CADRe’s future:

“There’s a great need to translate fundamental research knowledge into patient care. However, there’s a barrier between the tissue or animal-based models we currently employ and the human-oriented research we hope to conduct. At CADRe, we want to safely recruit patients and study them in a meaningful way that is currently very difficult to do.”

That transition to human-oriented research will happen in stages. Mueller’s goal is for fundraising to support early stage laboratory research that can go on to secure progressively more substantial grant funding. He gives the $35,000 in grants from the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota (LFM) that both he and Dr. Emily Gillespie were awarded in 2015 as a prime example of this funding progression. The support of the grant from LFM allowed Mueller to further expand his research and secure a larger grant from the Rheumatology Research Foundation for both he and Gillespie to collaboratively study autoreactive B cells in patients with arthritis.

Mueller sees CADRe’s collaborative approach as having important implications, both locally and globally:

“Autoimmune diseases are incredibly widespread—they affect roughly 15% of the population. The goal of our work is to improve patient care in the Midwest, build on the impressive medical research legacy of the University, and hopefully find a cure for autoimmune disease.”

Mueller understands that this transition to human-oriented research will happen in stages, but has faith that CADRe researchers will continue to build on their past record of turning promising research into viable plans for patient care in the clinic.