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1.  Synovial fibroblasts spread rheumatoid arthritis to unaffected joints 
Nature medicine  2009;15(12):1414-1420.
Active rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by originating from few but affecting subsequently the majority of joints. Thus far, the pathways of the progression of the disease are largely unknown. As rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) are key players in joint destruction and migrate in vitro, the current study evaluated the potential of RASFs to spread the disease in vivo. To simulate the primary joint of origin, healthy human cartilage was co-implanted subcutaneously into SCID mice together with RASFs. At the contralateral flank, healthy cartilage was implanted without cells. RASFs showed an active movement to the naïve cartilage via the vasculature independent of the site of application of RASFs into the SCID mouse, leading to a strong destruction of the target cartilage. These findings support the hypothesis that the characteristic clinical phenomenon of destructive arthritis spreading between joints is mediated, at least in part, by the transmigration of activated RASFs.
PMCID: PMC3678354  PMID: 19898488
2.  Hypoxia. Hypoxia in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis 
Autoimmunity, microangiopathy and tissue fibrosis are hallmarks of systemic sclerosis (SSc). Vascular alterations and reduced capillary density decrease blood flow and impair tissue oxygenation in SSc. Oxygen supply is further reduced by accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM), which increases diffusion distances from blood vessels to cells. Therefore, severe hypoxia is a characteristic feature of SSc and might contribute directly to the progression of the disease. Hypoxia stimulates the production of ECM proteins by SSc fibroblasts in a transforming growth factor-β-dependent manner. The induction of ECM proteins by hypoxia is mediated via hypoxia-inducible factor-1α-dependent and -independent pathways. Hypoxia may also aggravate vascular disease in SSc by perturbing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor signalling. Hypoxia is a potent inducer of VEGF and may cause chronic VEGF over-expression in SSc. Uncontrolled over-expression of VEGF has been shown to have deleterious effects on angiogenesis because it leads to the formation of chaotic vessels with decreased blood flow. Altogether, hypoxia might play a central role in pathogenesis of SSc by augmenting vascular disease and tissue fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC2688169  PMID: 19473554
3.  Increased levels of circulating microparticles in primary Sjögren's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis and relation with disease activity 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(5):R156.
Cell stimulation leads to the shedding of phosphatidylserine (PS)-rich microparticles (MPs). Because autoimmune diseases (AIDs) are characterized by cell activation, we investigated level of circulating MPs as a possible biomarker in primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
We measured plasma levels of total, platelet and leukocyte MPs by prothrombinase capture assay and flow cytometry in 43 patients with pSS, 20 with SLE and 24 with RA and in 44 healthy controls (HCs). Secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) activity was assessed by fluorometry. Soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L) and soluble P-selectin (sCD62P), reflecting platelet activation, were measured by ELISA.
Patients with pSS showed increased plasma level of total MPs (mean ± SEM 8.49 ± 1.14 nM PS equivalent (Eq), P < 0.0001), as did patients with RA (7.23 ± 1.05 n PS Eq, P = 0.004) and SLE (7.3 ± 1.25 nM PS Eq, P = 0.0004), as compared with HCs (4.13 ± 0.2 nM PS Eq). Patients with AIDs all showed increased level of platelet MPs (P < 0.0001), but only those with pSS showed increased level of leukocyte MPs (P < 0.0001). Results by capture assay and flow cytometry were correlated. In patients with high disease activity according to extra-glandular complications (pSS), DAS28 (RA) or SLEDAI (SLE) compared with low-activity patients, the MP level was only slightly increased in comparison with those having a low disease activity. Platelet MP level was inversely correlated with anti-DNA antibody level in SLE (r = -0.65; P = 0.003) and serum β2 microglobulin level in pSS (r = -0.37; P < 0.03). The levels of total and platelet MPs were inversely correlated with sPLA2 activity (r = -0.37, P = 0.0007; r = -0.36, P = 0.002, respectively). sCD40L and sCD62P concentrations were significantly higher in pSS than in HC (P ≤ 0.006).
Plasma MP level is elevated in pSS, as well as in SLE and RA, and could be used as a biomarker reflecting systemic cell activation. Level of leukocyte-derived MPs is increased in pSS only. The MP level is low in case of more severe AID, probably because of high secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) activity, which leads to consumption of MPs. Increase of platelet-derived MPs, sCD40L and sCD62P, highlights platelet activation in pSS.
PMCID: PMC2787287  PMID: 19832990
4.  Effect of the oral application of a highly selective MMP-13 inhibitor in three different animal models of rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2009;69(5):898-902.
To evaluate the decrease of cartilage destruction by a novel orally active and specific matrix metalloproteinase 13 (MMP-13) inhibitor in three different animal models of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Materials and methods
The SCID mouse co-implantation model of RA, the collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) model in mice and the antigen-induced arthritis model (AIA) in rabbits were used.
In the SCID mouse co-implantation model, the MMP-13 inhibitor reduced cartilage destruction by 75%. In the CIA model of RA, the MMP-13 inhibitor resulted in a significant and dose-dependent decrease in clinical symptoms as well as of cartilage erosion by 38% (30 mg/kg), 28% (10 mg/kg) and 21% (3 mg/kg). No significant effects were seen in the AIA model. No toxic effects were seen in all three animal models.
Although several MMPs in concert with other proteinases have a role in the process of cartilage destruction, there is a need for highly selective MMP inhibitors to reduce severe side effects that occur with non-specific inhibitors. Significant inhibition of MMP-13 reduced cartilage erosions in two of three tested animal models of RA. These results strongly support the development of this class of drugs to reduce or halt joint destruction in patients with RA.
PMCID: PMC2925150  PMID: 19497915
5.  Caveolin-1 Expression and Hemodynamics in COPD Patients 
Caveolin-1 is a regulator of both intracellular calcium homeostasis and endothelial nitric oxide synthase and may play a pathogenetic role in pulmonary hypertension. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the correlations between pulmonary hemodynamics and vessel morphology including the expression of Caveolin-1 in pulmonary arterioles from patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who underwent lung-volume reduction surgery. Staining and subsequent analysis was performed on paraffin-embedded lung tissue from COPD patients (n = 12). Pulmonary arteries with an external diameter of 100-500µm were analysed. Immunhistochemistry with antibodies against caveolin-1 was performed and intensity was assessed. Morphometric data were obtained by using computer-assisted imaging software. The findings were quantified and correlated to hemodynamic data obtained by right-heart catheterization. In COPD patients with pulmonary hypertension (n = 5), the expression of caveolin-1 within the medial smooth muscle cell layer was found to be increased, whereas the intimal caveolin-1 was more prominently expressed in COPD patients with normal pulmonary pressures (n = 7). The ratio between these expression patterns was positively correlated to the mean pulmonary artery pressure. Similar findings were observed for the ratio between intimal and medial thickness as well as for the expression of smooth muscle actin (SMA).
Taken together, the expression of caveolin-1 within medial smooth muscle cells of pulmonary arteries in patients with COPD is associated with pulmonary hypertension. Our results thus emphasize a potential novel player in the pathogenesis of COPD-associated pulmonary hypertension.
PMCID: PMC2703474  PMID: 19572028
Caveolin-1; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); morphometry; pulmonary hypertension.

Results 1-5 (5)