The first step towards a preventive treatment against rheumatoid arthritis


With a unique collection of patient samples, researchers at the Faculty of Pharmacy are searching for subtypes of the antibody ACPA that contributes to the development of rheumatoid arthritis. "If we succeed, our next goal is to develop a substance that blocks the growth of the antibody and can stop the disease at an early stage," says Camilla Eriksson.

Research underway at Testa Center, Uppsala
Research underway at Testa Center, Uppsala

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when our immune system develops antibodies that react to and attack our body's own tissue. The disease is diagnosed by measuring the amount of ACPA (anti-citrullinated protein antibodies), which the majority of those affected develop already at an early stage. Now researchers at Uppsala University have started a study to identify possible subtypes of ACPA, which could pave the way for a preventive treatment against rheumatoid arthritis.

“Our first goal is to establish the existence of subtypes of ACPA and to define their specific characteristics. Once there, our next step is to develop a substance that blocks their growth, which could generate both better diagnostic tools and a drug to prevent the development of joint rheumatism. At our disposal, we have an extensive amount of antibodies of the type Immunoglobulin G that we have extracted from patient samples from the Karolinska Institutet,” says Camilla Eriksson, PhD Student at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences.

The team has conducted the first phase of their work at Testa Center, Sweden's test bed and innovation center in bioprocess technology. With geographic location at Cytiva's site in Uppsala, Testa Center provides the university's researchers close access to industrial laboratory environments, high-quality instruments and technical expertise. Resources that enable both testing of and scaling up biological processes.

Camilla Eriksson, PhD Student
Camilla Eriksson, PhD Student​, Faculty of Pharmacy

“During three weeks at Testa Center with its state-of-the-art technology, we have created a test base that will meet our needs throughout the project. When we reach our goals, we hope to enable an effective and easily accessible tool against a disease that today affects up to 1 percent of the western population,” states Erik Jacobsson, researcher at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences.

Previous Swedish studies of ACPA have, as a result of limited sample availability, been conducted on pools from different patients, but the amount of antibodies that is now purified from each unique plasma sample will enable both individual bioanalyses of each individual patient and also other future studies.

“Among many things, we hope to contribute to answer whether a specific ACPA subtype plays an active role in causing pain - the focus area of a group we collaborate with at Karolinska Institutet. We also see an opportunity to identify if certain ACPA subtypes are active in the development of other, more aggressive diseases. This is knowledge that could contribute to individualized treatments of rheumatoid arthritis,” states Sunithi Gunasekera, researcher at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences.


  • Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common of the rheumatic diseases in Sweden, mainly affecting women. Treatment aims to reduce inflammation and pain and, if possible, eliminate them completely.
  • Testa center provides Uppsala University's researchers access to modern equipment in the biotechnological process industry. The university also use the premises for education in bioprocess and drug development.
  • The project group includes Camilla Eriksson, Erik Jacobsson, Sunithi Gunasekera and Mingshu Zhang, all at Uppsala University's Pharmacognosy research group, headed by Ulf Göransson.



Camilla Eriksson, PhD Student
Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences

Erik Jacobsson, researcher
Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences

Sunithi Gunasekera, Researcher
Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Faculty of Pharmacy

More news

Last modified: 2022-11-08