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1.  Evaluation of the novel ultrasound score for large joints in psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis: six month experience in daily clinical practice 
Background
To evaluate the utility of the recently introduced SOLAR score (sonography of large joints in Rheumatology), which has been validated in RA patients, in a cohort of patients with Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) presenting with involvement of large peripheral joints.
Methods
The recently established SOLAR score has been designed to determine the degree of inflammation in the shoulder, the elbow, the hip and the knee joint in patients suffering from RA. Since large joints are frequently involved in PsA and AS, synovitis and synovial vascularity were scored semiquantitatively (grade 0–3) by grey scale (GSUS) and power Doppler ultrasound (PDUS) utilizing the validated scoring system. Each joint was scanned from different angles, the knee joint for example was divided into four areas to score for synovitis: the suprapatellar longitudinal, the medial longitudinal, the lateral longitudinal, and the posterior region. Each area was scored from 0–3, so a maximum score of 12 could be achieved. PsA and AS patients presenting with peripheral joint disease involving large joints were examined at baseline, 3 and 6 months after initiation of local or systemic therapy (DMARDs/Biologics). For evaluation of the inflammatory status, the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) was determined.
Results
A cohort of 126 patients were enclosed, and 83 of these were followed for 6 months. At baseline before modification of the therapy, patients received DMARDs (n = 83), DMARDs plus biologics (n = 30), or biologic monotherapy (n = 29). Following intervention, all US scores demonstrated a marked improvement. The GSUS and the PDUS scores for all joint areas, except the PDUS score of the hip, exhibited a significant improvement (p < 0.05), while the GSUS of the knee showed even a highly significant (p < 0.001) change. The ESR displayed a significant decrease from 27 to 19 mm (p < 0.002) representing good treatment response.
Conclusion
The SOLAR score, which has been recently introduced for RA patients, is a very suitable instrument for the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of large joint involvement in PsA and AS patients and allows for treatment monitoring.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-358
PMCID: PMC3878335  PMID: 24351026
Psoriatic arthritis; Ankylosing spondylitis; Large joints; Ultrasound; Scoring
2.  Quantitative assessment of synovitis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis using fluorescence optical imaging 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(5):R124.
Introduction
To prospectively evaluate quantitative assessment of fluorescence optical imaging (FOI) for differentiation of synovitic from non-synovitic joints in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods
FOI of the hands was performed in patients with active RA, and a stratified quantitative fluorescence readout (FLRO) of 3 phases (1-120 s; 121-240 s; 241-360 s) was generated for 5 individual joints of the clinical predominant hand (carpal joint, metacarpophalangeal and proximal interphalangeal joints of digits II & III). To dissect the effect of the overall perfusion of the hand from the perfusion due to synovitis, a fluorescence ratio (FLRA) was additionally calculated, dividing each FLRO by the readout of the eponychium of digit II. The mean FLRO and FLRA were compared between joints with absent vs. present synovitis determined by clinical examination, grayscale, color Doppler ultrasonography, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Results
The analysis for 90 individual joints from 18 patients yielded FLRO ranging from 4.4 to 49.0 × 103, and FLRAs ranging from 0.37 to 2.27. Overall, the analyses based on the FLRA revealed a higher discrimination than the analyses related to the FLRO, demonstrating most significant differences in phases 2 and 3. A sensitivity of 26/39 (67%) and a specificity of 31/40 (77%) were calculated for FLRA of phase 3 using a cut-off value of more than 1.2 to detect MRI-confirmed synovitis with FOI.
Conclusions
FOI has a potential for visualizing synovitis in subjects with RA. For adequate FOI interpretation, quantitative analysis should be based on the novel FLRA calculated for phases 2 and 3.
doi:10.1186/ar4304
PMCID: PMC3978726  PMID: 24432363
3.  Renal Perfusion in Scleroderma Patients Assessed by Microbubble-Based Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound 
Objectives:
Renal damage is common in scleroderma. It can occur acutely or chronically. Renal reserve might already be impaired before it can be detected by laboratory findings. Microbubble-based contrast-enhanced ultrasound has been demonstrated to improve blood perfusion imaging in organs. Therefore, we conducted a study to assess renal perfusion in scleroderma patients utilizing this novel technique.
Materials and Methodology:
Microbubble-based contrast agent was infused and destroyed by using high mechanical index by Siemens Sequoia (curved array, 4.5 MHz). Replenishment was recorded for 8 seconds. Regions of interests (ROI) were analyzed in renal parenchyma, interlobular artery and renal pyramid with quantitative contrast software (CUSQ 1.4, Siemens Acuson, Mountain View, California). Time to maximal Enhancement (TmE), maximal enhancement (mE) and maximal enhancement relative to maximal enhancement of the interlobular artery (mE%A) were calculated for different ROIs.
Results:
There was a linear correlation between the time to maximal enhancement in the parenchyma and the glomerular filtration rate. However, the other parameters did not reveal significant differences between scleroderma patients and healthy controls.
Conclusion:
Renal perfusion of scleroderma patients including the glomerular filtration rate can be assessed using microbubble-based contrast media.
doi:10.2174/1874312901206010050
PMCID: PMC3367302  PMID: 22670165
Scleroderma; renal perfusion; contrast-enhanced ultrasound.
4.  Safety and clinical outcomes of rituximab therapy in patients with different autoimmune diseases: experience from a national registry (GRAID) 
Introduction
Evidence from a number of open-label, uncontrolled studies has suggested that rituximab may benefit patients with autoimmune diseases who are refractory to standard-of-care. The objective of this study was to evaluate the safety and clinical outcomes of rituximab in several standard-of-care-refractory autoimmune diseases (within rheumatology, nephrology, dermatology and neurology) other than rheumatoid arthritis or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in a real-life clinical setting.
Methods
Patients who received rituximab having shown an inadequate response to standard-of-care had their safety and clinical outcomes data retrospectively analysed as part of the German Registry of Autoimmune Diseases. The main outcome measures were safety and clinical response, as judged at the discretion of the investigators.
Results
A total of 370 patients (299 patient-years) with various autoimmune diseases (23.0% with systemic lupus erythematosus, 15.7% antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated granulomatous vasculitides, 15.1% multiple sclerosis and 10.0% pemphigus) from 42 centres received a mean dose of 2,440 mg of rituximab over a median (range) of 194 (180 to 1,407) days. The overall rate of serious infections was 5.3 per 100 patient-years during rituximab therapy. Opportunistic infections were infrequent across the whole study population, and mostly occurred in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. There were 11 deaths (3.0% of patients) after rituximab treatment (mean 11.6 months after first infusion, range 0.8 to 31.3 months), with most of the deaths caused by infections. Overall (n = 293), 13.3% of patients showed no response, 45.1% showed a partial response and 41.6% showed a complete response. Responses were also reflected by reduced use of glucocorticoids and various immunosuppressives during rituximab therapy and follow-up compared with before rituximab. Rituximab generally had a positive effect on patient well-being (physician's visual analogue scale; mean improvement from baseline of 12.1 mm).
Conclusions
Data from this registry indicate that rituximab is a commonly employed, well-tolerated therapy with potential beneficial effects in standard of care-refractory autoimmune diseases, and support the results from other open-label, uncontrolled studies.
doi:10.1186/ar3337
PMCID: PMC3218885  PMID: 21569519
5.  Killer artificial antigen-presenting cells: the synthetic embodiment of a ‘guided missile’ 
Immunotherapy  2010;2(4):539-550.
At present, the treatment of T-cell-dependent autoimmune diseases relies exclusively on strategies leading to nonspecific suppression of the immune systems causing a substantial reduced ability to control concomitant infections or malignancies. Furthermore, long-term treatment with most drugs is accompanied by several serious adverse effects and does not consequently result in cure of the primary immunological malfunction. By contrast, antigen-specific immunotherapy offers the potential to achieve the highest therapeutic efficiency in accordance with minimal adverse effects. Therefore, several studies have been performed utilizing antigen-presenting cells specifically engineered to deplete allo- or antigen-specific T cells (‘guided missiles’). Many of these strategies take advantage of the Fas/Fas ligand signaling pathway to efficiently induce antigen-presenting cell-mediated apoptosis in targeted T cells. In this article, we discuss the advantages and shortcomings of a novel non-cell-based ‘killer artificial antigen-presenting cell’ strategy, developed to overcome obstacles related to current cell-based approaches for the treatment of T-cell-mediated autoimmunity.
doi:10.2217/imt.10.26
PMCID: PMC2941805  PMID: 20636007
antigen-presenting cell; apoptosis; artificial; killer artificial antigen-presenting cell; T cell
6.  Cryptococcosis mimicking cutaneous cellulitis in a patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis: a case report 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:239.
Background
Cryptococcus neoformans is an encapsulated yeast and the most frequent cryptococcal species found in humans. Cryptococcosis is considered an opportunistic infection as it affects mainly immunosuppressed individuals. In humans, C. neoformans causes three types of infections: pulmonary cryptococcosis, cryptococcal meningitis and wound or cutaneous cryptococcosis.
Case Presentation
An 81-year-old woman developed severe necrotizing cellulitis on her left arm without any preceding injury. The patient had been treated with systemic corticosteroids over twenty years for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Skin biopsies of the wound area were initially interpreted as cutaneous vasculitis of unknown etiology. However, periodic acid Schiff staining and smear analysis later revealed structures consistent with Cryptococcus neoformans, and the infection was subsequently confirmed by culture. After the initiation of therapy with fluconazole 400 mg per day the general condition and the skin ulcers improved rapidly and the patient was discharged to a rehabilitation facility. Subsequently surgical debridement and skin grafting were performed.
Conclusions
Opportunistic infections such as cryptococcosis can clinically and histologically mimic cutaneous vasculitis and have to be investigated rigorously as a differential diagnosis in immunosuppressed patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-239
PMCID: PMC2931510  PMID: 20699010
7.  Tumor necrosis factor and norepinephrine lower the levels of human neutrophil peptides 1-3 secretion by mixed synovial tissue cultures in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(3):R110.
Introduction
Neutrophils and monocytes play an important role in overt inflammation in chronic inflammatory joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) inhibits many neutrophil/monocyte functions and macrophage tumor necrosis factor (TNF), but because of the loss of sympathetic nerve fibers in inflamed tissue, sympathetic control is attenuated. In this study, we focused on noradrenergic and TNF regulation of human neutrophil peptides 1-3 (HNP1-3), which are proinflammatory bactericidal α-defensins.
Methods
Synovial tissue and cells were obtained from patients with RA and osteoarthritis (OA). By using immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence, HNP1-3 were tracked in the tissue. With synovial cell-culture experiments and ELISA, effects of norepinephrine, TNF, and cortisol on HNP1-3 were detected.
Results
HNP1-3 were abundantly expressed in the synovial lining and adjacent sublining area but not in deeper layers of synovial tissue. The human β-defensin-2, used as control, was hardly detectable in the tissue and in supernatants. HNP1-3 double-stained with neutrophils but not with macrophages, fibroblasts, T/B lymphocytes, and mast cells. Norepinephrine dose-dependently decreased HNP1-3 levels from RA and OA cells. TNF also inhibited HNP1-3 levels from OA but not from RA cells. Cortisol inhibited HNP1-3 levels only in OA patients. A combination of norepinephrine and cortisol did not show additive or synergistic effects.
Conclusions
This study demonstrated an inhibitory effect of norepinephrine on HNP1-3 of mixed synovial cells. In light of these findings, the loss of sympathetic nerve fibers with low resting norepinephrine levels might also augment the inflammatory process through HNP1-3.
doi:10.1186/ar3044
PMCID: PMC2911901  PMID: 20525314
8.  A patient with Pfeifer-Weber-Christian Disease - Successful Therapy with Cyclosporin A: case report 
Background
Pfeifer-Weber-Christian disease (PWCD) is a rare inflammatory disorder of the subcutaneous fatty tissue. The diagnosis and therapy of this rare type of panniculitis is still controversial and will be discussed in this article.
Case presentation
We here report the rare case of a 64-year old male patient, with PWCD. The patient suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for several years, but then developed relapsing fever and recently occurring painful subcutaneous nodules predominantly at the inner part of his left upper limb with no signs of synovitis. Finally, a biopsy from one of the nodules revealed lobular panniculitis with mixed cell infiltrate, which was conformable only with PWCD, after excluding several differential diagnoses. In our patient PWCD developed despite immunosuppressive therapy with steroids and different disease modifying drugs, which the patient received to treat his underlying rheumatoid arthritis. However, when DMARD therapy was switched to Ciclosporin A the patient's symptoms resolved.
Conclusion
Our observation supports the hypothesis that T cells are involved in the pathogenesis of PWCD. Thus, T cell modifying drugs should be primarily used to treat patients with this rare disorder.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-18
PMCID: PMC2828421  PMID: 20105325
9.  Antigen presenting cells expressing Fas ligand down-modulate chronic inflammatory disease in Fas ligand–deficient mice 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2000;105(6):813-821.
We assessed the effect of modified antigen presenting cells (APCs) expressing high levels of Fas ligand (APC-FasL) on post-viral chronic inflammatory disease. FasL-deficient B6-gld/gld mice infected with murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) cleared the virus from their lungs, kidneys, and livers within 2 weeks of infection. However, inflammation persisted in these organs for more than 8 weeks, with a chronically increased T-cell response to MCMV-infected APCs and production of autoantibodies. Administration of APC-AdFasL at 4 weeks suppressed this inflammation and diminished the T-cell response and autoantibody production. APC-AdFasL that had been transfected with ultraviolet-irradiated MCMV were more effective than uninfected APC-AdFasL in ameliorating the chronic inflammation. APC-AdFasL migrated preferentially to the spleen, where they triggered apoptosis of lymphocytes in the marginal zone of the spleen. These results confirm that Fas-mediated apoptosis is not required for clearance of virus, but is required for down-modulation of the virally induced chronic inflammatory response. This organwide effect of APC-AdFasL appears to be mediated by elimination of activated T lymphocytes in the spleen before their emigration to the target organs.
PMCID: PMC377462  PMID: 10727450

Results 1-9 (9)