The Center of Experimental Rheumatology in Zurich is one of the leading centers worldwide for the analysis of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Prof. Ospelt’s track record is in the analysis of innate immune mechanisms and epigenetic changes that activate synovial fibroblasts in RA. This research demonstrated that endogenous and exogenous ligands activate pattern-recognition receptors on synovial fibroblasts in RA, which results in the secretion of matrix-degrading enzymes and pro-inflammatory molecules propagating inflammation as well as destruction of the joints.
Furthermore, the group analyses the role of non-coding RNAs (microRNA and long non-coding RNA) in the pathogenesis of RA. This work showed that aberrant expression of microRNAs promotes inflammatory and destructive pathways that are active in RA. In addition to the work on microRNAs, also studies analyzing changes in histone acetylation and DNA methylation explaining the activated phenotype of RA synovial fibroblasts are conducted.
The technical expertise of the group comprises isolation and culture of primary cells (e.g. fibroblasts and macrophages), overexpression and knockdown experiments in these cells followed by gene and protein expression analysis and functional assays (migration, invasion, adhesion, proliferation, and apoptosis). In addition, the group is experienced in the analysis of DNA methylation and histone modifications (bisulfite sequencing, ChIP) as well as in the measurement and modulation of non-coding RNAs.