She wants to find a cure for rheumatoid arthritis

In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system begins to attack the joints. To map how the disease gets started and develops, Wallenberg Clinical Scholar Anca Catrina is monitoring people who are at risk of developing it. The aim is to be able to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis at an earlier stage and to find treatments that can stop its progression.

Wallenberg Clinical Scholar 2020

Anca Catrina, chief physician and professor of rheumatology

Karolinska Institutet

A number of effective pharmaceuticals have recently become available to treat rheumatoid arthritis, reducing joint inflammation and slowing the disease’s development. However, these new treatments do not help everyone and and they do not cure the disease. 

To better understand the molecular mechanisms that drive the disease, Anca Catrina, senior physician and professor at the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, is studying people who have joint pain and an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. One important risk factor is smoking. Previous research has shown that smoking causes changes to proteins in the mucous membranes of the lungs, and that these damaged proteins irritate the immune system. 

Anca Catrina’s research group will now search for other environmental factors that may trigger this pathogenic process. She will also investigate how the disease gradually spreads from the lungs’ mucous membranes – or other mucous membranes in the body – to the joints. The long-term objective is to be able to diagnose the disease at an earlier stage and to find treatments that can settle the immune system before it causes chronic and painful damage to the joints.  

Photo: Mikael Sjöberg