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For many years, the focus of our clinical research and basic research is a group of rheumatic diseases called Spondyloarthritides. These include ankylosing spondylitis (AS, Bechterev's disease) as a prototype disease, the reactive arthritis, psoriatic spondyloarthritis, and spondyloarthritis associated with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. These diseases share a similar clinical picture with the main symptoms of inflammatory back pain and / or an asymmetric arthritis, more commonly involving the lower extremities, as well as the association with the genetic marker HLA-B27 and a bacterial trigger as the potiential causative factor of the disease onset.
In our clinical research, we explore epidemiology of spondyloarthritis, trying to introduce and validate new diagnostic and classification criteria and improve early detection of spondylarthritides. We also perform a number of therapeutic trials which are aimed on improving the treatment of spondylarthritides.
In the field of basic research, we investigate the pathogenesis of spondylarthritides. We focus on the research of the immunological and osteological relationships. Specifically, we search for the factors triggering the disease the immunological mechanisms of joint inflammation and the factors that trigger pathological new bone formation in the spine (syndesmophytes) of the patients suffering from Spondyloarthritides, which is the typical feature of ankylosing spondylitis. This research is supported by several research groups of the German Research Foundation (SFB633, IMMUNOBONE) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (ArthroMark, ANCYLOSS).
IMMUNOBONE: Study on the interaction between inflammation, bone destruction and new bone formation in patients with ankylosing spondylitis. In this osteoimmunologic project we investigate the relationship between bone inflammation and new bone formation. Typical in ankylosing spondylitis, bone formation affects the function and mobility of the spine and determine the prognosis of patients with ankylosing spondylitis. The mechanisms that lead to this pathologic bone formation are still unclear. By histological analyzes and in vitro assays we examine the interaction between immune cells and osteoblasts, i.e. the cells mediate bone formation, clarify and explain the mechanisms of pathological bone formation.
METARTHROS: Metabolic factors in ankylosing spondylitis. In this project we investigate the relationship between metabolic factors and bone formation in patients with AS.
ArthroMark: Biomarkers for inflammation and bone destruction in ankylosing spondylitis. We assume that inflammatory process in the cartilage / bone precedes the formation of syndesmophytes. Therefore, at this study we are looking for biomarkers that may indicate cartilage and bone degradation, with their levels correlating with the levels of inflammatory markers. The goal is to discover biomarkers that would allow to identify patients requiring aggressive anti-inflammatory therapy.
Cooperations: In our research, we cooperate closely with the German Rheumatism Research Center (DRFZ; Prof. Andreas Radbruch) and the Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT; Prof. Andreas Thiel). In addition, our working group cooperating with other national and international researchers.