We are a growing satellite group of the Center of Experimental Rheumatology and are located at the Balgrist Campus. We focus on the study of the pathophysiology of rheumatic disorders and the development of novel therapeutics.
A key focus of the Rheumatology group at Balgrist is the investigation of Modic changes. Modic changes are vertebral bone marrow lesions and coincide with idiopathic low back pain. In close collaboration with our important clinical partners, we showed that Modic changes are inflammatory and fibrotic changes of the bone marrow and that the adjacent degenerated intervertebral disc plays a key role in the pathophysiology of Modic changes. In the past, we established animal and in vitro models for Modic changes and utilized them to demonstrate a duality of etiologies; infection of the intervertebral disc as well as an autoimmune response of the bone marrow against disc material can trigger off Modic changes. In line with our past research we now strive to develop biomarkers and targeted treatments for either etiology.
The study of Modic changes is well embedded in the expertise of the Center of Experimental Rheumatology, which is one of the leading centers worldwide for the investigation of rheumatoid arthritis and systemic sclerosis. The technical expertise of our groups are the isolation of primary cells from a wide range of tissues (bone marrow, intervertebral discs, synovium, synovial membrane, joint cartilage, skin), culturing them in tissue and organ-scale culture models, characterizing their phenotype (gene and protein expression profile, flow cytometry, epigenetic modifications), and testing their functionality (migration, myeloid CFU, MSC multilineage differentiation, collagen contraction, de novo collagen synthesis).