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Deciphering the causes of ankylosing spondylitis: new research project at Jacobs University

Sebastian Springer, Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Jacobs University, is heading the research group on the new ankylosing spondylitis research project. (Source: Jacobs University)


May 11, 2021
Severe back pain and joint inflammation are some of the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, also referred to as Bekhterev's disease, which is an inflammatory rheumatic autoimmune disease that still has no cure. In a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), researchers from the Springer Group at Jacobs University Bremen will spend the next three years trying to identify the causes of ankylosing spondylitis, and what can be learned from them for the treatment of the disease.

"There are many theories about how ankylosing spondylitis develops," said biochemist Professor Sebastian Springer, who leads the research group. "We know that the immune system turns against the patient's own body, with immune cells attacking the body's own tissue. This results in inflammation, pain and even deformation of bones," he mentioned.

"Many ankylosing spondylitis patients have a gene called HLA-B27," explained cell biologist Zeynep Hein, PhD, who is responsible for the project at Jacobs University. "HLA genes are actually found in all people; they are normal components of the immune system. But this particular HLA gene, HLA-B27, is somehow related to the disease and causes the inflammatory symptoms. We'll now be able to do our detective work in the lab to find out how," she elaborated.

"We have many years of experience with HLA genes," Springer said. "With our expertise, we hope to contribute to the elucidation of the disease mechanism," he added. The project is funded by the DFG with about 350,000 euros.

Questions are answered by:
Sebastian Springer Dphil
Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Tel: +49 421 200-3243
Email: s.springer [at]