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1.  A prospective pilot study to evaluate an animated home-based physical exercise program as a treatment option for patients with rheumatoid arthritis 
Physical exercises and physiotherapy are of great importance for maintenance of joint function in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, many RA patients complain about problems to receive prescriptions or have a lack of access to physiotherapy. Recent reports have shown positive effects of the Wii game console on physical and psychosocial conditions of patients with other underlying diseases. The primary objectives of this prospective controlled pilot study were to investigate feasibility and patients’ assessment using an animated home-based exercise program.
This pilot study was conducted as a single-center, cross-over trial with two treatment arms over 24 weeks. Eligibility criteria included patients with RA reaching low disease activity under therapy with a biological disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (bDMARD). After detailed instruction, 15 patients started with a conventional home-based physical exercise program and 15 patients began with a predefined animated exercise program by using the Wii game console for 12 weeks. Afterwards, patients were crossed-over to the other treatment arm for another period of 12 weeks.
Multi-methodical assessments were performed by qualitative analysis of the interview-data as well as statistical analysis of functional tests and patient reported outcomes (PRO’s).
Evaluation of the interviews indicated feasibility and usefulness of the chosen animated home-based exercise program. Forefoot disabilities were identified as a main limiting factor for performing some of the animated exercises. After 12 weeks, both treatment arms showed improvement of functional tests without significant differences between groups: Overall muscle strength improved for a mean value of 10 Newton (+12 %) and the mean 6-min walk test (6-MWT) distance increased for 28 meters (+5 %).
This study showed that an animated home-based exercise program by using a Wii game console was feasible and beneficial for RA patients. Compared to standard physical home exercises, similar effects were observed indicating that such an animated program might be an alternative supportive option for RA patients.
Trial registration ID: NCT02658370 (19-Jan-2016).
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12891-016-1208-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4990861  PMID: 27538847
Rheumatoid arthritis; Exercises; Physical therapy; Rehabilitation; Patient perspective; Wii® game console
2.  Carbamylated vimentin represents a relevant autoantigen in Latin American (Cuban) rheumatoid arthritis patients 
Rheumatology International  2016;36:781-791.
Smoking produces substances that activate proinflammatory, prothrombotic and vasoconstrictive mediators via posttranslational carbamylation of proteins. As a new consequence of carbamylation, induction of anti-carbamylated autoantibodies were observed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, sometimes prior to onset of the disease. The overall aim of this study was to characterize the reactivity of different isotypes of autoantibodies against carbamylated antigens of vimentin in relation to established rheumatoid factor (RF), anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA) and markers of disease activity in a so far largely uncharacterized population of Latin American (Cuban) patients with RA. Antigenic properties of carbamylated vimentin as well as vimentin peptides were analyzed in 101 patients with RA, 50 disease controls and 51 healthy controls. The diagnostic performance was compared with established commercial ELISA rheumatoid factor, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies of second generation (anti-CCP2) and anti-mutated citrullinated vimentin (anti-MCV) antibodies. Prevalence of anti-MCV IgG (86 %), anti-carbamylated vimentin (carbVIM) IgG (77 %) and anti-carbamylated MCV (carbMCV) IgG antibodies (65 %) was higher than the classical RF IgM (60 %) and anti-CCP2 IgG (52 %) in this RA cohort. Of note, smoking status was associated with positive IgG antibody reactivity against CCP2 in 75.0 % and against MCV in 90 % of patients. Furthermore, IgM antibody response against carbMCV and carbVIM was observed in 80 and 90.0 % of smokers, respectively. Due to a high sensitivity of the IgM antibody isotype of anti-carbVIM of 85.2 %, the combination of ACPA with anti-carbVIM IgM provided the best diagnostic performance so far achieved in a RA cohort of this ethnic origin. We demonstrate a high prevalence of anti-carbVIM antibodies and correlation with smoking in Latin American (Cuban) RA patients. Anti-carbVIM IgM represents an useful marker in ACPA-negative patients and, in combination with ACPA IgG assays, optimizes the strategy for autoantibody testing.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00296-016-3472-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4873524  PMID: 27038800
Rheumatoid arthritis; Anti-mutated citrullinated vimentin; Citrullinated vimentin; Carbamylated vimentin; Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides
3.  Gene-expression analysis of adult-onset Still’s disease and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis is consistent with a continuum of a single disease entity 
Adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD), a rare autoinflammatory disorder, resembles systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA). The superimposable systemic clinical features of AOSD and SJIA suggest both clinical phenotypes represent the same disease continuum with different ages of onset. To further characterize the similarity between AOSD and SJIA at the molecular level, 2 previously identified response gene sets in SJIA were used to investigate how genes that respond to interleukin (IL)-1β inhibition with canakinumab in SJIA patients behave in AOSD patients with active disease prior to IL-1β targeting therapy, relative to healthy subjects.
All genes downregulated in SJIA patients following canakinumab treatment were upregulated in most patients with active AOSD prior to canakinumab treatment, relative to healthy subjects. A few patients with milder AOSD had expectedly gene-expression patterns that resembled those in healthy subjects. Comparison of the gene-expression patterns with neutrophil counts showed a correlation between elevated neutrophil numbers and upregulation of canakinumab-responsive genes. Correspondingly, most genes upregulated following canakinumab treatment in patients with SJIA patients were downregulated in the majority of AOSD patients.
These results further support the concept of a Still’s disease continuum that includes both a pediatric/juvenile onset (SJIA) and adult onset (AOSD) form.
PMCID: PMC4654831  PMID: 26589963
Adult-onset Still’s disease; Canakinumab; Gene expression; Interleukin-1β; Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis
4.  Restrictive IgG antibody response against mutated citrullinated vimentin predicts response to rituximab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis 
Antibodies against mutated citrullinated vimentin (AMCV) represent a useful diagnostic marker with correlation to disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Since seropositivity for citrullinated autoantibodies was predictive for response to B-cell depleting therapy (BCDT) with rituximab (RTX), we investigated whether differences in antibody fine reactivity and immunoglobulin (Ig) isotype kinetics among AMCV-positive patients could provide additional information about outcome.
A total of 50 AMCV IgG-positive RA patients (RTX responders (RRs) n = 37 and non-responders (NRRs) n = 13) were analyzed for reactivity against MCV epitopes and co-existent AMCV isotypes IgM and IgA. Antibody titers were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay at baseline and 24 weeks after the first cycle of RTX, and compared to kinetics of rheumatoid factor (RF) and antibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptide (ACCP).
Recognized MCV epitopes by AMCV IgG of RRs and NRRs showed similar baseline patterns, with reducing reactivity in RRs and unchanged or even expanding reactivity in NRRs upon RTX treatment. At baseline, RRs were more frequently negative for AMCV subtypes, especially for IgA (68 %), compared to NRRs (31 %). Being AMCV IgA-negative at baseline indicated a good treatment response to RTX (negative predictive value = 0.86). Co-existence of AMCV IgA and IgG with stable titers upon treatment were associated with poorer responses to RTX. Furthermore, reductions of AMCV IgA levels upon RTX correlated with the improvement of 28-joint Disease Activity Score (DAS28). In comparison, subtypes of RF and ACCP were not of additional value for prediction of RTX response.
Restrictive IgG seropositivity against MCV with treatment-associated decline in fine reactivity and titers was predictive for response to RTX. Double-positivity for AMCV IgG and IgA was associated with failure to respond to BCDT, suggesting a pathogenetic and less sensitive IgA-producing B-cell subset in NRRs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0717-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4535682  PMID: 26268352
5.  Biologicals in rheumatoid arthritis: current and future 
RMD Open  2015;1(1):e000127.
The aim of the review is to highlight the current knowledge about established and new biologicals and to summarise recent advances by focusing on comparative efficacy, safety and possible discontinuation of treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Up to now, comparative analyses showed only minor differences with respect to efficacy and safety among the established biologicals. Studies confirmed the excellent drug retention rate as well as efficacy and safety of approved biologicals including their use in monotherapy. Tapering and in some instances discontinuation of biologicals is possible in disease remission. In case of relapse, patients usually show full response after reintroduction of the same compound. The development of biologicals continues fast with several new biologicals targeting different or established cytokines or cellular subsets of the immune system. With several new biologicals in the pipeline and different formulations for established compounds, treatment options for RA will become even more versatile and sophisticated. Although we get closer to the aim of decreasing the proportion of refractory patients, many questions have to be addressed in the near future regarding emerging biosimilars and biologicals with new modes of action.
PMCID: PMC4613149  PMID: 26535144
Rheumatoid Arthritis; Treatment; DMARDs (biologic)
6.  Increased proteasome activator 28 gamma (PA28γ) levels are unspecific but correlate with disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis 
PA28γ (also known as Ki, REG gamma, PMSE3), a member of the ubiquitin-and ATP-independent proteasome activator family 11S, has been proved to show proteasome-dependent and -independent effects on several proteins including tumor suppressor p53, cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 and steroid receptor co-activator 3 (SCR-3). Interestingly, PA28γ is overexpressed in pathological tissue of various cancers affecting e. g. breast, bowl and thyroids. Furthermore, anti-PA28γ autoantibodies have been linked to several autoimmune disorders. The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate a novel and sensitive PA28γ sandwich ELISA for the quantification of PA28γ serum levels in patients with cancer and autoimmune diseases for diagnostic and prognostic purposes.
PA28γ-specific polyclonal antibodies and recombinant His-tagged PA28γ were purified and used to develop a sandwich ELISA for the detection of circulating PA28γ. With this new assay, PA28γ serum levels of patients with various cancers, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Sjögren’s syndrome (SS), adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD) and different connective-tissue diseases (CTD) were compared with healthy control subjects. Anti-PA28γ autoantibodies were additionally confirmed using a newly developed microbead assay.
The developed PA28γ sandwich ELISA showed a high specificity with a detection limit of 3 ng/ml. A significant up-regulation of circulating PA28γ was detected in the sera of patients with cancer, RA, SS and CTD. A significant correlation was observed dependent on age as well as anti-PA28γ autoantibody levels with circulating PA28γ protein levels. Furthermore, PA28γ serum levels showed a correlation with disease activity in patients with RA under treatment with the T-cell directed biological compound abatacept according to disease activity score 28 (DAS28) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).
The application of PA28γ as a novel biomarker for diagnostic purposes of a specific disease is limited, since elevated levels were observed in different disorders. However, the correlation with disease activity in patients with RA suggests a prognostic value, which needs to be addressed by further studies. Therefore our results show that PA28γ is a useful marker which should be included in studies related to novel treatments, e.g. abatacept.
PMCID: PMC4295294  PMID: 25482151
Proteasome activator PA28γ; 20S proteasome; Sandwich ELISA; Microbeads; Autoimmune disorders; Rheumatoid arthritis; Abatacept; Cancer
7.  Upregulation of Immunoproteasome Subunits in Myositis Indicates Active Inflammation with Involvement of Antigen Presenting Cells, CD8 T-Cells and IFNγ 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104048.
In idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIM) infiltration of immune cells into muscle and upregulation of MHC-I expression implies increased antigen presentation and involvement of the proteasome system. To decipher the role of immunoproteasomes in myositis, we investigated individual cell types and muscle tissues and focused on possible immune triggers.
Expression of constitutive (PSMB5, -6, -7) and corresponding immunoproteasomal subunits (PSMB8, -9, -10) was analyzed by real-time RT-PCR in muscle biopsies and sorted peripheral blood cells of patients with IIM, non-inflammatory myopathies (NIM) and healthy donors (HD). Protein analysis in muscle biopsies was performed by western blot. Affymetrix HG-U133 platform derived transcriptome data from biopsies of different muscle diseases and from immune cell types as well as monocyte stimulation experiments were used for validation, coregulation and coexpression analyses.
Real-time RT-PCR revealed significantly increased expression of immunoproteasomal subunits (PSMB8/-9/-10) in DC, monocytes and CD8+ T-cells in IIM. In muscle biopsies, the immunosubunits were elevated in IIM compared to NIM and exceeded levels of matched blood samples. Proteins of PSMB8 and -9 were found only in IIM but not NIM muscle biopsies. Reanalysis of 78 myositis and 20 healthy muscle transcriptomes confirmed these results and revealed involvement of the antigen processing and presentation pathway. Comparison with reference profiles of sorted immune cells and healthy muscle confirmed upregulation of PSMB8 and -9 in myositis biopsies beyond infiltration related changes. This upregulation correlated highest with STAT1, IRF1 and IFNγ expression. Elevation of T-cell specific transcripts in active IIM muscles was accompanied by increased expression of DC and monocyte marker genes and thus reflects the cell type specific involvement observed in peripheral blood.
Immunoproteasomes seem to indicate IIM activity and suggest that dominant involvement of antigen processing and presentation may qualify these diseases exemplarily for the evolving therapeutic concepts of immunoproteasome specific inhibition.
PMCID: PMC4123911  PMID: 25098831
8.  Single-step autoantibody profiling in antiphospholipid syndrome using a multi-line dot assay 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(4):R118.
Diagnosis of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) still remains a laboratory challenge due to the great diversity of antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) and their significance regarding APS-diagnostic criteria.
A multi-line dot assay (MLDA) employing phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidylinositol (PI), cardiolipin (CL), and beta2-glycoprotein I (β2 GPI) was used to detect aPL, immunoglobulin G (IgG) and immunoglobulin M (IgM) in 85 APS patients, 65 disease controls, and 79 blood donors. For comparison, anti-CL and anti-β2 GPI IgG and IgM were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
The level of agreement of both methods was good for anti-CL IgG, moderate for anti-CL IgM, very good for anti-β2 GPI IgG, and moderate for anti-β2 GPI IgM (kappa = 0.641, 0.507, 0.803 and 0.506, respectively). The frequency of observed discrepancies for anti-CL IgG (1.75%), anti-CL IgM (3.93%), anti-β2 GPI IgG (1.75%), and anti-β2 GPI IgM (0.87%) was low (McNemar test, P < 0.05, not-significant, respectively). Sensitivity, specificity, positive (+LR) and negative (-LR) likelihood ratios for at least one positive aPL antibody assessed by ELISA were 58.8%, 95.8%, 14.1, and 0.4, respectively, and for at least three positive aPl IgM and/or one positive aPL IgG by MLDA were 67.1%, 96.5%, 19.3, and 0.3, respectively. The frequency of IgM to PI, PS and CL, and combination of three or more aPL IgM detected by MLDA was significantly higher in APS patients with cerebral transient ischemia (P < 0.05, respectively).
The novel MLDA is a readily available, single-step, sensitive diagnostic tool for the multiplex detection of aPL antibodies in APS and a potential alternative for single aPL antibody testing by ELISA.
PMCID: PMC3239356  PMID: 21777436
9.  Immediate determination of ACPA and rheumatoid factor - a novel point of care test for detection of anti-MCV antibodies and rheumatoid factor using a lateral-flow immunoassay 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(3):R120.
Autoantibodies against mutated and citrullinated vimentin (MCV) represent a novel diagnostic marker for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Recently, an increased sensitivity for anti-MCV compared to autoantibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptides (anti-CCP2) was shown in cohorts of patients with early RA and established disease.
The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate a point of care test (POCT) for detection of anti-MCV antibodies immediately at the first visit or at the bed side.
A lateral-flow immunoassay was developed for simultaneous detection of anti-MCV antibodies and rheumatoid factor (RF-IgG) and evaluated in a prospective setting. Analyses were performed from whole blood samples of patients with seropositive RA (n = 108), seronegative RA as well as other rheumatic disorders (n = 122), and healthy blood donors (n = 200) and compared to detection via ELISA.
Using the POCT, anti-MCV antibodies were detected in 54.6% and RF-IgG in 56.5% of patients with RA. Specificity was 99.1% for anti-MCV antibodies and 91.2% for RF-IgG. Compared to ELISA's results, POCT sensitivity was 69.3% for anti-MCV and 55.6% for RF-IgG, specificity was 99.7% and 97.2%, respectively.
This POCT for detection of anti-MCV antibodies and RF-IgG provides high specificity for the diagnosis of RA and is useful in clinical practice due to its simplicity and its reliable performance. This test can greatly improve a timely management of RA and may help in screening patients with suspected RA in non-specialized settings prompting early referrals.
PMCID: PMC2911914  PMID: 20569500
10.  Automated evaluation of autoantibodies on human epithelial-2 cells as an approach to standardize cell-based immunofluorescence tests 
Analysis of autoantibodies (AAB) by indirect immunofluorescence (IIF) is a basic tool for the serological diagnosis of systemic rheumatic disorders. Automation of autoantibody IIF reading including pattern recognition may improve intra- and inter-laboratory variability and meet the demand for cost-effective assessment of large numbers of samples. Comparing automated and visual interpretation, the usefulness for routine laboratory diagnostics was investigated.
Autoantibody detection by IIF on human epithelial-2 (HEp-2) cells was conducted in a total of 1222 consecutive sera of patients with suspected systemic rheumatic diseases from a university routine laboratory (n = 924) and a private referral laboratory (n = 298). IIF results from routine diagnostics were compared with a novel automated interpretation system.
Both diagnostic procedures showed a very good agreement in detecting AAB (kappa = 0.828) and differentiating respective immunofluorescence patterns. Only 98 (8.0%) of 1222 sera demonstrated discrepant results in the differentiation of positive from negative samples. The contingency coefficients of chi-square statistics were 0.646 for the university laboratory cohort with an agreement of 93.0% and 0.695 for the private laboratory cohort with an agreement of 90.6%, P < 0.0001, respectively. Comparing immunofluorescence patterns, 111 (15.3%) sera yielded differing results.
Automated assessment of AAB by IIF on HEp-2 cells using an automated interpretation system is a reliable and robust method for positive/negative differentiation. Employing novel mathematical algorithms, automated interpretation provides reproducible detection of specific immunofluorescence patterns on HEp-2 cells. Automated interpretation can reduce drawbacks of IIF for AAB detection in routine diagnostics providing more reliable data for clinicians.
PMCID: PMC2888187  PMID: 20214808
11.  Mavrilimumab, a human monoclonal antibody targeting GM-CSF receptor-α, in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase I, first-in-human study 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;70(9):1542-1549.
To evaluate the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles of mavrilimumab, a human monoclonal antibody targeting the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor receptor-α, in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-escalating phase I study in subjects with RA who received stable methotrexate treatment for ≥3 months before enrolment. Subjects received single intravenous escalating doses of mavrilimumab (0.01–10.0 mg/kg) or placebo.
32 subjects were enrolled in this study (1 unblinded subject at 0.01 mg/kg and another at 0.03 mg/kg were followed by five sequential double-blinded cohorts, n=6 each, treated with 0.1, 0.3, 1.0, 3.0 and 10.0 mg/kg, respectively). Adverse events were mild or moderate and were reported with similar frequency across all treatment cohorts. One subject (10.0 mg/kg) experienced moderate face and neck urticaria during infusion that resolved with symptomatic treatment. Systemic clearance of mavrilimumab approached that of endogenous IgG at doses >1.0 mg/kg; pharmacodynamic activity was confirmed in the 1.0 and 3.0 mg/kg cohorts by suppression of suppressor of cytokine signalling 3 mRNA transcripts. In exploratory analyses, reductions of acute phase reactants were observed in subjects with elevated C-reactive protein (>5 mg/l) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (≥20.0 mm/h) at baseline. No significant change in Disease Activity Score 28-joint assessment (DAS28) was seen in any of the cohorts. In mavrilimumab-treated subjects (n=15) with baseline DAS28 >3.2, mean disease activity (DAS28) was significantly reduced at 4 weeks.
In this first-in-human study, mavrilimumab showed preliminary evidence of pharmacodynamic activity. Importantly, the safety and pharmacokinetic profiles of mavrilimumab support further clinical studies in RA.
Trial registration number: NCT00771420.
PMCID: PMC3147227  PMID: 21613310
12.  Performance of the new 2011 ACR/EULAR remission criteria with tocilizumab using the phase IIIb study TAMARA as an example and their comparison with traditional remission criteria 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;70(11):1986-1990.
Remission is the established goal in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatment. Although originally defined by a disease activity score in 28 joints (DAS28) <2.6, more stringent criteria may imply the absence of disease activity. The 2011 ACR/EULAR remission criteria provide the newest and most stringent definition of remission.
To evaluate post hoc the remission by ACR/EULAR criteria and compare the criteria with the conventional DAS28 in TAMARA, an open-label phase IIIb tocilizumab (TCZ) trial including patients with active RA receiving inadequate disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) inhibitor treatment.
286 patients were enrolled, 99.7% of patients were receiving a conventional DMARD and 41.6% had TNFα inhibitor pretreatment. Baseline mean DAS28 of 6.0 ± 1.0 fell to 2.6 ± 1.5 at week 24. DAS28 <2.6 was achieved by 47.6% at week 24. Remission rates with the new ACR/EULAR Boolean-based criteria for clinical studies were 15.0% after 12 weeks and 20.3% after 24 weeks. Of note, 13.5% of patients with previous TNFα blocker inadequate response still achieved remission according to the new ACR/EULAR criteria after 24 weeks. Clinical Disease Activity Index and Simplified Disease Activity Index remission rates were 24.1% and 25.2%, respectively.
Under the definition of the new stringent 2011 ACR/EULAR remission criteria, patients with active RA despite DMARD treatment and even after inadequate response to TNFα inhibitors, receiving TCZ showed significant rates of remission. Similar remission rates were achieved, when clinical practice criteria, not inclusive of acute phase reactants, were used.
PMCID: PMC3184242  PMID: 21875873

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