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Two major EU grants for research into gums and joints

News: Aug 30, 2011

Researcher and doctor Piotr Mydel, who heads up the major European Gums&Joints research collaboration from the Sahlgrenska Academy, has been awarded two EU grants in quick succession for his research into the link between chronic rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease.

The EU Gums&Joints project was launched last year with funding from the EU's Seventh Framework Programme. With a budget of just over SEK 50 million, it involves 11 research groups from different universities and companies around Europe.
"We’re adopting a cross-disciplinary approach using genetics, epidemiology, molecular immunology and animal models to study rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease in terms of susceptibility, contributory factors and the immune system," says Mydel, a researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy’s Department of Rheumatology and Inflammation Research.

Mydel’s research group is studying the changes to proteins in both gum disease and autoimmune diseases. The aim is to understand the course of the disease better and, in the long run, to pave the way for new treatments.
"Many patients with autoimmune diseases develop antibodies to deal with the modified proteins," says Mydel. "This is interesting as the antibodies are formed before we are in a position to make a diagnosis and are also associated with a more rapid progression of the disease."

Mydel was recently awarded a second EU grant, equivalent to around SEK 4 million, as part of another major European research collaboration, also investigating the link between chronic rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease. Known as RAPID (Rheumatoid Arthritis and Periodontal Inflammatory Disease), this project is being funded under the Seventh Framework Programme’s Marie Curie Actions – Initial Training Networks call for proposals.

"One of the key aims of this project is to pass on knowledge to the next generation of researchers," says Mydel. "It’s all about teaching students and young researchers and getting them to visit the various institutions involved in the project."


Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is very common – up to 30% of the adult population has inflamed gums, with the inflammation so serious in 8% that it eventually leads to the gums detaching from the teeth. Around 1% of the population suffers with chronic rheumatoid arthritis, which causes swelling, painful movement and in some cases serious disability. Even though researchers have been able to map a number of characteristic disturbances in the immune system in the disease, we still do not know what causes it. Patients with more serious forms of rheumatoid arthritis almost always have periodontitis too.

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