GRANTS. Inger Gjertsson, Adjunct Professor in Rheumatology, is the lead applicant for a project that is receiving SEK 24 million from the Swedish Research Council in the call for proposals in clinical treatment research. The research will lead to a new diagnostic test for rheumatoid arthritis, and is being conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University.
“It’s really fun! The grant contributes to the financial security for the next few years both for the larger team working on the project and for my own team. It gives us some peace and quiet to work and really be able to devote ourselves to this research,” says Inger Gjertsson.
The research is being conducted in collaboration with a team at KI under the direction of Rikard Holmdahl, Professor of Experimental Rheumatology, and another team under the direction of Jan Kihlberg, Professor of Organic Chemistry at Uppsala University. The three research leaders also received large grants from SSF a few years ago to begin the development of the diagnostic test.
A unique test
The test being developed in the research cooperation is based on antibodies that recognize proteins in the joint.
“These proteins can change in the inflammatory environment. The antibody tests for rheumatoid arthritis that exist today detect such proteins that probably do not originate from the joint. By detecting the immune response to the actual joint, we believe we can get significantly better precision with the new test,” says Inger Gjertsson.
The new test is based on many years of animal experiment research, mainly conducted in Rikard Holmdahl’s laboratory at Karolinska Institutet. In the experimental research, antibodies were mapped that recognize joint proteins and provoke arthritis. Jan Kihlberg has produced unique peptides that enable the detection of these antibodies.
“The research is truly translational, and ties together a number of researchers in rheumatology in Gothenburg, Linköping and Umeå, and researchers from the well-established BARFOT cohort, with experimental rheumatology and organic chemistry. We also have the health economy aspect in the project,” says Inger Gjertsson.
Clinics with experimental backgrounds
Inger Gjertsson is a medical specialist in both internal medicine and rheumatology, and earned her PhD in 2003 with a dissertation in experimental rheumatology that was supervised by the renowned rheumatologist Andrej Tarkowski. After two years as a postdoc in London, she became a postdoctoral research fellow at Sahlgrenska Academy with financing from the Swedish Research Council. From previously only having worked with experimental studies, today she focuses only on clinical research. She represents academia in the operational group in rheumatology, and she is also the senior physician of the care unit for the rheumatology clinical research center:
“I think the combination of research and clinical practice is enjoyable and enriching. Today, my research is about the B cells that produce the antibodies that we detect in the test in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” says Inger Gjertsson.