Center of Experimental Rheumatology

The Center for Experimental Rheumatology is part of the Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology (ZIHP), in turn member of the Life Science Zurich Graduate School (LSZGS), and serves as an institution for molecular research in the field of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and related autoimmune diseases. The laboratory continues its pursuit of discovering, investigating and understanding key molecular and cellular events in RA, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondilitis, progressive systemic sclerosis and pulmonary hypertension.

The center was awarded from the Societas Rheumatologica Europeae to a EULAR Center of Excellence in Rheumatology 20052010 and again 2011–2015. The center was part of the AUTOCURE project sponsored with 11 Mio. Euros by the EC within the FP6 program from 2006–2011 and the FP7 Masterswitch 2009–2014 sponsored with 12 Mio Euros. At present, the Center is part of the IMI BTCure 2011–2016. Thereby, the group is a member of „Be The Cure“ (BTCURE), an IMI (Innovative Medicines Initiative) funded research project which aims to develop new therapies against rheumatoid arthritis. With a total budget of EUR 32 million and 33 partners from all over Europe, it is hoped that by combining academic and industrial resources, basic understanding of disease processes and therapeutic development will be enhanced.

The Center was also awarded to be part of a FP7 ITN Osteoimmune (2012–2016) and the EC EuroTEAM Project (2012–2016) and DeSScipher (2013–2015).

When investigating such complex rheumatic diseases it is critical to combine the knowledge and ideas of basic research with those of the clinical elements of the disease. As such, the Center for Experimental Rheumatology fosters a multidisciplinary environment through collaborations with several major medical institutions where practicing Rheumatologists, Immunologists, and Orthopedic Surgeons are able to interact with research scientists to form coordinated research efforts integrating basic research and clinical investigation.

To be on edge of new strategies for the treatment of rheumatic diseases the Center developed a new program entitled Clinical and Molecular Studies on Novel Drug Therapies“.

The most exciting avenue of research is the epigenetic work, including acetylation, methyltion, sumoylation and microRNAs/miRNAs.

Group members

Further group members

  • Peter Künzler, MSc
  • Mojca Frank-Bertoncelj, MD PhD
  • Emmanuel Karouzakis, PhD
  • Dr. rer. nat. Kerstin Klein
  • Agnieszka Pajak, PhD student
  • Maria Comazzi
  • Benvinda Henriques
  • Georgina Mathis
  • Fabienne Wullschleger
  • Sophie Besson


Center of Experimental Rheumatology
University Hospital Zurich
Gloriastrasse 25
CH-8091 Zurich

Directions, Map (PDF)
The number of parking spaces at the University Hospital is very limited. We therefore recommend to use public transport (ZVV connections, SBB timetable) or to arrive by taxi.


Center of Experimental Rheumatology
Bio-Technopark Schlieren
University Hospital Zürich
Wagistrasse 14 / 3. OG
CH-8952 Schlieren

For a detailed map, please have a look at the University of Zurich main page and select location „Schlieren“. The lab can be reached by public transport (Bus 31 from Zurich main station, direction „Schlieren, Zentrum“, stop „Gasometerbrücke“)

Selected Publications
  1. Neidhart M, Karouzakis E, Jüngel A, Gay RE, Gay S. Inhibition of spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase (SSAT1) activity - a new therapeutical concept in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 66:1723-1733, 2014 IF:7.871
  2. Klein K, Kabala PA, Grabiec AM, Gay RE, Kolling C, Lin LL, Gay S, Tak PP, Prinjha RK, Ospelt C, Reedquist KA. The bromodomain protein inhibitor I-BET151 suppresses expression of inflammatory genes and matrix degrading enzymes in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014 [Epub ahead of print] IF:9.270
  3. Iwamoto N, Vettori S, Maurer B, Brock M, Pachera E, Jüngel A, Calcagni M, Gay RE, Whitfield ML, Distler JH, Gay S, Distler O. Downregulation of miR-193b in systemic sclerosis regulates the proliferative vasculopathy by urokinase-type plasminogen activator expression. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014 [Epub ahead of print] IF:9.270
  4. Brock M, Samillan VJ, Trenkmann M, Schwarzwald C, Ulrich S, Gay RE, Gassmann M, Ostergaard L, Gay S, Speich R, Huber LC. AntagomiR directed against miR-20a restores functional BMPR2 signalling and prevents vascular remodelling in hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension. Eur Heart J 35(45):3203-11, 2014 IF:14.723
  5. Filková M, Aradi B, Senolt L, Ospelt C, Vettori S, Mann H, Filer A, Raza K, Buckley CD, Snow M, Vencovsky J, Pavelka K, Michel BA, Gay RE, Gay S, Jüngel A. Association of circulating miR-223 and miR-16 with disease activity in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis 73(10):1898-904, 2013 IF:9.270
  6. Maurer B, Distler A, Dees C, Khan K, Denton CP, Abraham D, Gay RE, Michel BA, Gay S, Distler J, Distler O. Levels of target activation predict antifibrotic responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Ann Rheum Dis 72:2039-46, 2013 IF:9.270
  7. Nikitopoulou I, Oikonomou N, Karouzakis E, Sevastou I, Nikolaidou-Katsaridou N, Zhao Z, Mersinias V, Armaka M, Xu Y, Masu M, Mills GB, Gay S, Kollias G, Aidinis V. Autotaxin expression from synovial fibroblasts is essential for the pathogenesis of modeled arthritis. J Exp Med 209:925-33, 2012 IF:13.912
  8. Kurowska-Stolarska M, Alivernini S, Ballantine LE, Asquith DL, Millar NL, Gilchrist DS, Reilly J, Ierna M, Fraser AR, Stolarski B, McSharry C, Hueber AJ, Baxter D, Hunter J, Gay S, Liew FY, McInnes IB. MicroRNA-155 as a proinflammatory regulator in clinical and experimental arthritis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108(27):11193-8, 2011 IF:9.809
  9. Dees C, Akhmetshina A, Zerr P, Reich N, Palumbo K, Horn A, Jüngel A, Beyer C, Krönke G, Zwerina J, Reiter R, Alenina N, Maroteaux L, Gay S, Schett G, Distler O, Distler JH. Platelet-derived serotonin links vascular disease and tissue fibrosis. J Exp Med 208(5):961-72, 2011 IF:13.912
  10. Lefèvre S, Knedla A, Tennie C, Kampmann A, Wunrau C, Dinser R, Korb A, Schnäker EM, Tarner IH, Robbins PD, Evans CH, Stürz H, Steinmeyer J, Gay S, Schölmerich J, Pap T, Müller-Ladner U, Neumann E. Synovial fibroblasts spread rheumatoid arthritis to unaffected joints. Nat Med 12:1414-20, 2009 IF: 28.054


Education and Training

We have established a molecular biology training course, twice a year, to train new international research fellows in cloning, sequencing, cell-culture, cell-sorting (FACS), TaqMan Real Time PCR, primer design, in situ PCR, in situ hybridization , analysis of acetylation, methylation and miRNAs and immunohistology.

  • IAR (Institute for Arthritis Research) 2010-2015EC BTCure 2011-2016
  • EC FP7-People-2011 Networks for Initial Training (ITN) Marie Curie Osteoimmune 2012-2016
  • EC Health 2012 Innovation Euro-TEAM 2012-2016
  • Swiss National Science Foundation
  • Foreign Government Exchange Agencies
  • Research Foundations
  • Industry