Rheumatism - a disease with many faces
There are more than one hundred different forms of rheumatic disease, most of which result in painful joints, muscles and connective tissues. Rheumatic diseases occur in all age groups. In Germany, almost 1.5 milion people are affected by inflammatory rheumatic diseases, including approximately 20,000 children. Another 5 milion people suffer from symptomatic, medically treated osteoarthritis.
The term “rheumatism” comes from the Greek language and describes a pulling, tearing pain. This generic term includes inflammatory rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and classic wear-and-tear arthritis called Osteoarthritis. In the case of inflammatory forms of the disease, there is a malfunction of the immune system, which results in the body attacking itself for yet unknown reasons. The exact processes involved in Osteoarthritis, which leads to bone and cartilage damage, are largely unexplored.
While there is no cure for rheumatic disease, thanks to the great progress made in research and therapy, inflammatory rheumatic disease progression can be stopped and symptoms significantly alleviated. The situation is different with Osteoarthritis and spinal cord diseases: there are still no therapies available for the restoration of damaged or destroyed tissues.
The aim of research on rheumatic disorders is the complete healing of all disease variants. The German Rheumatism Research Centre Berlin plays a internationally recognized role here.
Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease worldwide and the most important cause of disability in the elderly in Germany. This chronic degenerative disease leads to progressive cartilage loss and is often accompanied by inflammation. To date, there is no therapy that stops the progression of arthritis or that leads to the regeneration of the diseased joints.
Although Osteoarthritis is a widespread disease, surprisingly little research is being done in this area. For example, it remains unclear precisely how the disease develops and what happens in the body. However, this knowledge is pivotal for the development of new therapies.
Current findings made at the DRFZ on the molecular changes in Chondrocytes, the cartilage-forming cells, are promising. These processes ultimately lead to Osteoarthritis. A team at the DRFZ, working in the Pitzer Laboratory of Osteoarthritis Research, wants to reprogram defective Chondrocytes in such a way that they function normally again and ensure flexible, pain-free joints.