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Understanding the Origins of Inflammation in Those with Rheumatoid Arthritis May Lead to New Treatments



Scientific Study Title: 

Hematopoietic Stem and Progenitor Cells as Mediators of Trained Immunity in Rheumatoid Arthritis


Principal Investigator:

Ines Colmegna, Associate Professor, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, McGill University. Scientist, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Sciences. Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program.


David Langlais, Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Genetics, and Department of Microbiology & Immunology, McGill University


Anastasia Nijnik, Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology, and Complex Traits Group, McGill University


Study Start Date: 



Study End Date:



Why do this research? 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects 1 out of every 100 adult Canadians (this represents 300,000 Canadians). Although anyone can get RA at any age, RA affects women two to three times more often than men. In RA, the immune system of the patient is activated leading to chronic inflammation and damage of joints but also other affected organs (e.g., lungs, heart, eyes, blood vessels). As a result, RA reduces patients’ quality of life and lifespan. The treatment of RA aims at suppressing inflammation. Despite current treatment options, some people with RA have ongoing inflammation. Those patients would benefit from new treatment approaches. Understanding the mechanisms that drive inflammation in RA is key to developing new treatment for RA patients.


What will be done?

All cells from the immune system originate from ‘mother cells’ called hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs).  In previous studies, we showed that HSPCs from people living with RA function differently than those from healthy people. This study focuses on understanding the causes of the RA-HSPC defects and how they affect the function of the immune system. Understanding of the role of HSPCs in RA may lead to new treatment approaches for people with RA.

In this study, we will examine blood samples from people newly diagnosed with RA and healthy people of same age and sex to address the following questions. In people with RA:

  • Do HSPCs increase inflammation?
  • Are the defects of HSPC transferred to the immune cells that the HPSCs generate?
  • Does RA treatment restore the defects of HSPCs?


Who is involved? 

Three groups with complementary expertise will conduct this work:

  • Dr. Nijnik’s team has a unique expertise in how HSPC develop immune cells and how to test this in animal models;
  • Dr. Langlais’ team are leaders in understanding how genes and proteins in cells are linked to their function;
  • Dr. Colmegna’s team has expertise in analyzing the function of RA-HSPC.


Funding Agency: 

Canadian Institutes of Health Research


How do people get involved?

If you live in Montreal, Quebec, have newly diagnosed RA, are not yet treated and are interested in participating in this study, you can contact Dr. Colmegna who will provide you more details.