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Rheumatology Research

The Rheumatology Research Lab results from a partnership between the iMM/FML and the Rheumatology Department of the Santa Maria Hospital. Basic scientists and clinicians closely work together to promote translational research and clinical excellence in the field of Rheumatology.

Our specific research objectives are the study of the impact of inflammatory joint diseases (such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), Spondyloarthritis (SpA) and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)) on bone and vessel in order to characterize potential tools for early diagnosis and prognosis and potential targets for novel therapies.

Finally, we are involved in clinical trials, development of registries (in collaboration with the Portuguese Society of Rheumatology) and epidemiological studies, in providing services to the community, including expertise advisory to governmental institutions and in postgraduate teaching. The long-term objective of the RRU is to achieve recognition as an European League Against Rheumatism Centre of Excellence in Rheumatology.

Research Team

Alexandre Figueiredo Brito
MSc Student

Ana Tavares
Administrative Technician

Bruno Miguel Costa Vidal
Post-Doctoral Researcher

Catarina Tenazinha
Clinical Researcher

Catarina Tomé
PhD Student

Cristina Ponte
PhD Student

Elsa Vieira de Sousa
Clinical Researcher

Fernando Saraiva
Clinical Researcher

Filipa Oliveira Ramos
Clinical Researcher

Joana Silva Dinis
Clinical Researcher

Joaquim Polido Pereira
PhD Student

Manuel Silvério António
Clinical Researcher

Maria Helena da Fonseca
Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher

Maria José Santos
Clinical Staff Scientist

Mónica Silva
MSc Student

Neide Silva
MSc Student

Nikita Khmelinskii
Clinical Researcher

Patricia Godinho Martins
Clinical Researcher

Patrícia Costa Reis
Post-Doctoral Researcher

Pedro Ávila Ribeiro
PhD Student

Raquel Campanilho Marques
Clinical Researcher

Rita Aguiar Moura
Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher

Rita Cruz Machado
Clinical Researcher

Rita da Graça Sofio
MSc Student

Rui Lourenço Teixeira
PhD Student

Sofia Barreira
Clinical Researcher

Susana Capela
Clinical Researcher

Sónia Figueiredo

Vasco Crispim Romão
Clinical Researcher

Vítor Teixeira
Clinical Researcher

Ângelo Calado
Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher

Research Areas

  • Characterization of the bone nano level properties during the early phase of arthritis
  • Identification of compounds that interfere with bone nano level properties during the early phase of arthritis
  • Understand the pathways involved in osteoclast and osteoblast control in the setting of rheumatic conditions that have differential bone behaviors (rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis)
  • Identifying links between bone damage and vessel damage in the context of arthritis
  • Identify markers of early diagnosis or prognosis in the setting of inflammatory joint diseases or bone diseases
  • Epidemiology of Rheumatic Diseases, Cohorts, Registries and Databases.
  • Recommendations and Guidelines
  • Collaboration in Clinical Trials

Ongoing Research Projects

2012/2016 Predictors of atherosclerosis progression in patients with rheumatoid arthritis over a period of 5 years: focus on adipose tissue and inflammation.

2012/2015 How inflammation early affects bone's nano-properties at arthritis onset.

2012/2015 Understanding physician's decision to switch or keeping treatment regimen - is it dependent on patient's outcome measures?.

2012/2015 Coupling of atherosclerosis progression and bone disturbances in rheumatoid arthritis.

2013/2014 Inhibition of bone and cartilage degradation in rat induced arthritis treated with tofacitinib.

2012/2014 Differences in osteoclastic activity between rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

2012/2014 Linking biomechanics and the immune system in early Psoriatic Arthritis – a translational approach.

2012/2014 Golimumab as first line DMARD therapy in MTX naive psoriatic arthritis - a 24 weeks efficacy and safety study focusing on dactylitis and enthesitis.

2011/2014 Portuguese Epidemiologic Study of Rheumatic Diseases – EpiReumaPt.

2010/2014 Response to anti-TNF treatment biomarkers in Rheumatoid Arthritis (ref. HMPS-ICS/SAU-ICT/002/2010).


  • 2014 ECTS/Amgen Bone Biology Fellowship (was awared to Bruno Vidal)
  • 2013 ASPIRE EU Inflammation Pfizer Research Awards. Inhibition of bone and cartilage degradation in rat induced arthritis treated with tofacitinib
  • 2012 Bolsa de Investigação Sociedade Portuguesa de Reumatologia/ MSD 2011 (was awarded to Elsa Sousa)
  • 2010 Senior Clinical Award, Harvard Medical School- Portugal Program ( was awarded to Helena Canhão)
  • 2010 ECTS/Servier award 2010 ( was awarded to Saba Abdulghani)
  • 2009 Bial Prize for Clinical Medicine 2008 (was awarded to João Eurico Fonseca, Helena Canhão, Maria José Santos, Ana Filipa Mourão, Elsa Sousa, Joana Caetano Lopes, Rita Moura, Pamela Weinmann, José Alberto Pereira da Silva, Jaime Branco and Mário Viana Queiroz)
  • 2005 EULAR Young Investigator Award from European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR),(was awarded to João Eurico Fonseca)

Selected Publications

  • Cascão R, Vidal B, Raquel H, Neves-Costa A, Figueiredo N, Gupta V, Fonseca JE, Moita LF.Potent anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative effects of gambogic acid in a rat model of antigen-induced arthritis.Mediators Inflamm. 2014:195327.
  • Carmona-Fernandes D, Santos MJ, Canhão H, Fonseca JE. Anti-ribosomal P protein IgG autoantibodies in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: diagnostic performance and clinical profile.BMC Med. 2013 4, (11):98.
  • Vale AC, Aleixo IP, Lúcio M, Saraiva A, Caetano-Lopes J, Rodrigues A, Amaral PM, Rosa LG, Monteiro J, Fonseca JE, Vaz MF, Canhão H. At the moment of occurrence of a fragility hip fracture, men have higher mechanical properties values in comparison with women.BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 16;14:295.
  • Moura RA, Canhão H, Polido-Pereira J, Rodrigues AM, Navalho M, Mourão AF, Resende C, Campanilho-Marques R, Dias JM, da Silva JA, Graca L, Fonseca JE. BAFF and TACI Gene Expression Are Increased in Patients with Untreated Very Early Rheumatoid Arthritis. J Rheumatol.2013 40, 1293-302.
  • Caetano-Lopes J, Rodrigues A, Lopes A, Vale AC, Pitts-Kiefer MA, Vidal B, Perpétuo IP, Monteiro J, Konttinen YT, Vaz MF, Nazarian A, Canhão H, Fonseca JE. Rheumatoid Arthritis Bone Fragility Is Associated With Upregulation of IL17 and DKK1 Gene Expression. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2013 Apr 2.
  • Vidal B, Pinto A, Galvão MJ, Santos AR, Rodrigues A, Cascão R, Abdulghani S, Caetano-Lopes J, Ferreira A, Fonseca JE, Canhao H.Bone histomorphometry revisited.Acta Reumatol Port. 2012 37(4):294-300
  • Fonseca JE, Santos MJ, Canhão H, Choy E. Interleukin-6 as a key player in systemic inflammation and joint destruction. Autoimmun Rev. 2009 8, 538-542
  • Fonseca JE, Cavaleiro J, Teles J, Sousa E, Andrezzi VL, Antunes M, Amaral-Turkman MA, Canhão H, Mourão AF, Lopes J, Caetano-Lopes J, Weinmann P, Sobral M, Nero P, Saavedra MJ, Malcata A, Cruz M, Melo R, Braña A, Miranda L, Patto JV, Barcelos A, da Silva JC, Santos LM, Figueiredo G, Rodrigues M, Jesus H, Quintal A, Carvalho T, da Silva JÁ, Branco J, Queiroz MV. Contribution for new genetic markers of rheumatoid arthritis activity and severity: sequencing of the tumor necrosis factor-alpha gene promoter. Arthritis Res Ther 2007; 9(2): R37.
  • Fonseca JE, Carvalho T, Cruz M, Nero P, Sobral M, Mourão AF, Cavaleiro J, Abreu I, Carmo Fonseca M, Branco JC. Polymorphism at position –308 of the tumor necrosis factor alpha gene and rheumatoid arthritis pharmacogenetics. Ann Rheum Dis. 2005 64, 793-794.
  • Fonseca JE, Cortez-Dias N, Francisco A, Sobral M, Canhão H, Resende C, Castelão W, Macieira C, Sequeira G, Saraiva F, da Silva JA, Carmo-Fonseca M, Viana Queiroz M. Inflammatory cell infiltrate and RANKL/OPG expression in rheumatoid synovium: Comparison with other inflammatory arthropathies and correlation with outcome. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2005 23, (2):185-192.

group leader :
João Eurico Fonseca