Anca Catrina Group

Anca Catrina Group

Translational Rheumatology

Photo: Vijay Joshua Balasingh (Small Group Leader photo by Mikael Sjöstedt, provided by the Wallenberg Foundations)

We are a mixed team of pre-clinical and clinical researchers performing translational research of autoimmune diseases, with a special focus on rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We are investigating the early phases of RA development using a large spectrum of molecular techniques and with direct access to national registers and clinical samples.

We are aiming to understand how genes, environment and life style factors interact and contribute to development of autoimmunity outside the joints (such as at mucosal sites and the immune system) that only in a second stage leads to chronic joint inflammation and tissue destruction. We want to understand why and when the disease actually starts. Rheumatologists are today focusing on diagnosis and treatment of relatively late stages of the disease, when chronic inflammation has already developed.  We want to change this so we can interfere much more earlier during disease development. RA is the only autoimmune disease where different stages of disease development (from autoimmunity generation to disease onset) are well characterized. This gives unique possibilities to test different strategies for disease prevention.

Recent results in our group have largely contribute to a new hypothesis for RA development. According to this hypothesis, RA starts with break of tolerance at mucosal sites, especially in the respiratory mucosa. Airborne pollutants such as smoking induce local modifications of proteins by so called citrullination which leads to immune activation and antibody production, the so-called antibodies against citrullinated proteins (ACPA). These reactions mature over time and gradually induce pain and joint inflammation. Our current work hypothesis is that ACPA are responsible for this gradual development. We have shown that osteoclasts are dependent on citrullination (the same process taking place in smoke-exposed respiratory mucosa) for their physiological development and express citrullinated proteins on their cell surface. As such ACPA can bind to osteoclasts with osteoclast activation and release of Interleukin (IL)-8. This leads in turn to bone loss, pain and subclinical inflammation.  We are currently developing our work hypothesis by testing the effects of a broad spectrum of patient-derived ACPAs in cell and animal models. We have also taken the first step towards clinical studies by initiating a double-blind placebo-controlled study using an osteoclasts-blocking agent to treat pain and prevent arthritis development in individuals bearing ACPA and having a risk to develop RA.

Our work will contribute to (1). Detailed knowledge on the mechanisms responsible for disease progression that can result in new therapeutic strategies, (2). Improved identification of individuals at risk for developing RA and discovery of biomarkers for disease progression that are essential for therapy selection with right drug and at the right timepoint, (3). Development of new animal models mirroring human disease development that can be used to test new therapeutic strategies and (4). More specific and early treatment which open the possibilities for disease prevention. 







If you would like to support this area of research

you could do that by using Swish transfer. 

Our Swish number is 123-245 79 76


Always state the name of group/team leader in order for us to allocate the gift properly. 

Or you can also use the following accounts:

BG: 628-4418
PG: 514114-8

Always state the name of group/team leader in order for us to allocate the gift properly. 

If you are outside of Sweden, please use the following information:

Bank: SEB, Stockholm, Sweden
Account No. 5201-11 370 12
Iban-number: SE16 5000 0000 0520 1113 7012
Bic-code (the bank´s electronic address): ESSESESS
Account holder: Center for Molecular Medicine Foundation
L8:05, Karolinska University Hospital
171 76 Stockholm, Sweden


Group leader

Anca Catrina


Job title

MD, PhD, Professor





Autoimmunity, Epidemiology, Translational Medicine


Rheumatoid arthritis


Animal models, Antibodies, Autoimmunity, Biomarkers, Clinical trials, Pain, Rheumatic, Translational