Most people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are helped by available medicines. But there are patients who do not respond to the usual treatments. Cristina Maglio wants to be able to identify those patients at an early stage so that they can receive the right treatment from the start. In addition, she wants to develop new treatments. A grant of SEK 2.3 million from Lundberg’s Research Foundation goes towards new technical equipment that makes her research work more efficient.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately one percent of the population in Sweden and globally. The disease is two to three times more common among women than among men, and the risk of getting it increases with age. The main symptoms are swollen joints, stiffness, pain and fatigue. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease. What causes it is not clear.
Metabolism in focus
Cristina Maglio, doctor in rheumatology and researcher at the Department of Medicine at the University of Gothenburg, studies the connections between metabolism and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.
“Inflamed cells need more energy and a higher metabolism than others in order to maintain the inflammatory processes. So a possible treatment could be to dampen the inflammatory processes by inhibiting the metabolism,” she explains.
Therefore, she and her research group compare blood and cells from joints of healthy people with the same from patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The aim is to see if and if so in which ways the metabolism and metabolites differ between the groups, which of the metabolites affect the inflammatory process and if it is possible to inhibit them in particular. In the long term, the new knowledge can lead to a new form of treatment that aims to slow down the inflammation before it causes damage.
New method for choosing treatment
It is important that patients receive treatment at an early stage to prevent permanent damage to the joints. Currently, there are treatments that reduce the inflammation and pain and help most patients – but not all. Therefore, Cristina Maglio is also working on developing a method that will make it possible to predict which patients need a different treatment than the usual one. Here, too, it is about the metabolism.
“We are studying the metabolism of patients who have recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. After six months of treatment, we take new blood samples and see if their metabolism has changed. We are looking to identify substances in the blood that can already show at the time of diagnosis whether the patient will respond to the usual treatment or not. Those who need a different, perhaps tougher, treatment should preferably receive it as early as possible. At the same time, it is important not to overmedicate.”
New analyzes with new technology
Advanced studies of blood and cells require access to a well-equipped laboratory. Cristina Maglio has been awarded SEK 2.3 million in grants from the Lundberg Research Foundation. Part of the money goes to two PCR machines that are used to duplicate DNA from blood or cells. A simpler one that anyone, including students, can use and a more sophisticated one for more complex analyses. According to Cristina Maglio, they will significantly increase capacity because the existing ones are used by many and are heavily loaded.
In addition, the research group will purchase a so-called plate reader – an apparatus that opens up completely new analyses.
“With a plate reader, we can study the cells that grow like a carpet, which some cells in joints do. It also makes it possible to color in different types of cells so they appear more clearly, to look at different subjects and also to do experiments that we can follow in real time. For example, we can test treating joint cells with different inhibitors and see how they react. With the new equipment, we can do new and more advanced studies and also work faster and more efficiently”, concludes Cristina Maglio.
- Christine Maglio
- Cell cultures
- PCR machine is being prepared for use
Photographer: Magnus Gotander
For more information, please contact:
Chairman of the Board
Lundberg Research Foundation
Mobil: +46 727 19 70 45
Lundberg Research Foundation
Mobil: +46 734 33 7140
Department of Medicine
University of Gothenburg
IngaBritt and Arne Lundberg Research Foundation was founded by IngaBritt Lundberg in 1982 in memory of her husband, the wholesaler Arne Lundberg, born in 1910 in Gothenburg. The purpose of the foundation is to promote medical scientific research mainly concerning cancer, kidney diseases and orthopedics and prioritizes the purchase of apparatus, aids and equipment. During the years 1983 through 2022, 591 grants have been granted amounting to a total of SEK 1,014 million, of which SEK 49 million was granted in 2022. Research within the Gothenburg region has priority. The foundation is based in Gothenburg. www.lundbergsstiftelsen.se
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