Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common autoimmune disease characterized by a chronic inflammation of peripheral joints (arthritis). This inflammation causes swelling of the joints, pain and inflammatory-triggered degenerative changes in the joint structure. If persistent, the inflammation can result in systemic comorbidities, affecting, for example, the cardiovascular system or the bone. In recent years, research has focused on the later inflammatory stages of rheumatoid arthritis and studied mainly the signaling pathways contributing to the end-stage inflammation during this disease.

onset of rheumatoid arthritis

Our DFG research group FOR2886 aims to unravel the causes of RA and seeks to understand early events contributing to the onset of inflammation. The main focus here is to understand the influence of the natural bacterial flora or the microbiome as well as a number of environmental factors (including nutrition and salt consumption) on our immune system and in particular their impact on immune tolerance. In addition, we aim to address why a a subset of patients displaying a prototypic and RA-specific autoimmune response remain asymptomatic for years, while others suffer from an early and aggressive onset of disease. A better understanding of the causative molecular and cellular relationships would not only enable new, more effective and individualized therapeutic strategies, but above all, for the first time, open up options for curing this disease. Accordingly, we will conduct a first study applying a sequential combination of several therapeutic protein molecules (biologics) aiming to reprogram the (auto-)immune response in RA patients.


Fibre is a valuable part of a healthy diet. The largely indigestible foodstuffs are a feast for intestinal bacteria, which produce short-chained fatty acids from them. These short-chained fatty acids have a positive effect on inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. If arthritis patients eat a fibre-rich diet this leads to an increase in the number of regulatory t-cells which combat autoimmune reactions, in other words reactions in which the body’s immune system attacks the organism itself.

For our first annual exchange we met on 20.02.2020 in the Visionpark Herzogenaurach. Thank you for the lively scientific exchange and the interesting lectures of the PhD students and project leaders!

Autoantibodies directed against the body's own structures play an important role in the development of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Antibodies occur in the form of different isotypes (IgA, IgE, IgG and IgM), which have different tasks. Previous research has mainly focused on the...

The research group invites Dr. Andreas Hutloff from the Deutsches Rheuma-Forschungszentrum Berlin (DRFZ) to the MICE Seminar (Medical Immunology Campus Erlangen) on 03.12.2019. Andreas Hutloff will give the following lecture at 5.15 pm in the seminar room on the 1st floor of the Microbiological Inst...

It is well known that a healthy, fiber-rich diet improves our well-being and strengthens our intestinal flora. What is new is that the morning cereal also has a positive influence on the disease process of rheumatoid arthritis. The working group around Prof. Dr. Mario Zaiss explained at the Long Nig...