Appointment of Ricard Cervera, Group leader
Autoimmune diseases are the enemy within

Current research

Problem

Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders whose exact cause is unknown and in which the immune system attacks one or more organs in the body. More than 110 diseases of this type are currently known, and epidemiological studies estimate that over 10% of the population suffer from one or more of them.

In around forty of these diseases, a generalized attack against the entire body may occur; these are known as systemic autoimmune diseases. They feature highly varied clinical symptoms as a result of the simultaneous or successive involvement of different organs and systems, and they feature different antibodies as biological markers.

The clinical complexity of the diseases makes their diagnosis and control difficult. Current treatments do not yet offer a cure, as well as presenting many side effects.

Approach

The group promotes basic, clinical and translational research on systemic autoimmune diseases using a multidisciplinary approach and with the participation of members from different departments of Hospital Clínic, Barcelona.

It also cooperates with different international working groups, for which its team members are national or international coordinators, including: the European Working Party on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, the European Forum on Antiphospholipid Antibodies, the Catastrophic Antiphospholipid Syndrome (CAPS) Registry Project Group, and Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC).

Impact

Its study of over 600 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has made it possible to individualize and define different clinical subgroups, such as late-onset SLE, subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, silent lupus nephritis, etc.

Another very important aspect of the group’s work is its description of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). This has included it describing both original primary APS and catastrophic APS. Similarly, its study of large cohorts of patients with systemic sclerosis, Sjögren’s syndrome and mixed cryoglobulinaemia has led to a better clinical description of these diseases.

This experience has allowed the group to create and lead various European working groups to study these diseases (European Working Party on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, European Forum on European Forum on Antiphospholipid Antibodies, etc.). With our group conducting broad multidisciplinary, multi-centre studies, making use of the extensive clinical cases available will make it possible to improve the clinical and pathogenic description of these diseases and to improve their treatment