Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

Our research group has emanated from the original work of professor Solbritt Rantapää Dahlqvist. She noticed that so many of her patients died from cardiovascular disease. She initiated the first study on lipids and lipoproteins in patients with RA, and the study was published in 1991. Solveig Wållberg Jonsson became the first PhD student working in this field. She defended her thesis ” On inflammation and cardiovascular disease in patients with rhumatoid arthritis” in 1996. Since then, our research has grown with several PhD students covering several areas i.e., epidemiological studies, physiological studies on progression of atherosclerosis as well as etiological studies aiming at identifying biomarkers for prediction of atherosclerosis and CVD. The research has mainly comprised patients with RA, but also CVD in SLE, AS and psoriatic arthritis has been of interest in our group.

By now, several theses related to the cardiovascular field have emanated from our group: Anna Södergren (Epidemiological and pathogenic aspects on cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis) and Lotta Ljung (Aspects on inflammation and cardiovascular comorbidity in rheumatoid arthritis) have both CVD as main subject but also the theses of Lisbet Ärlestig (Genetic studies in rheumatoid arthritis : familial studies and analysis of relationships to atherothrombotic comorbidity) and Björn Sundström (On diet in ankylosing spondylitis) touched CVD i rheumatological diseases. Lena Innala has in her thesis analysed co-morbidity in a broader perspective however CVD is the main topic also in one of her publications. PhD students who are currently working on subjects related to CVD are Kristina Juneblad, MD, Bengt Wahlin, MD and Lars Ångström, physiotherapist and Kristina Hörnberg, physiotherapist.

Initially, our designs of research studies were retrospective or cross-sectional. Since 1995, we are following an incipient cohort of patients with early RA prospectively.The Department of Rheumatology in Umeå is the only Rheumatological unit in Västerbotten county. The population amounts to around 260.000 persons. Thus, to get a decent population for our purpose of following patients with RA prospectively from disease onset, we collaborate with the whole Northern region in Sweden and have by now included more than 1000 patients in our cohort. We have an on-line registration of the disease activity and the treatment. The patients are followed on regular basis and the development of comorbidities are registered both by the patients on questionnaries and by rheumatologists.

Studies are presently also ongoing on physiological analyses of patients with psoriatic arthritis and AS related to biomakers. Furthemore the impact of gene polymorphisms is evaluated in the RA patients analysed for the Imunochip. The researchers that take part in the ATTACK-RA project are professor Solveig Wållberg Jonsson (PI), professor Solbritt Rantapää Dahlqvist and Med dr Lena Innala.