Dr. Dr. Koshiro Sonomoto

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Dr. Dr. Koshiro Sonomoto will conduct research on the mechanism underlying rheumatoid arthritis at the Department of Medicine 3, Rheumatology and Immunology. (Image: Koshiro Sonomoto)

Humboldt Research Fellow at the Department of Medicine 3, Rheumatology and Immunology

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common autoimmune disease of the joints: endogenous defense cells, which are produced by the body, attack the joints and a chronic inflammation develops. For the long term, this inflammation harms or even destroys the joint respectively. Ill peoples´ quality of life is considerably impaired. Humboldt Research Fellow Dr. Dr. Koshiro Sonomoto will conduct research on the mechanism underlying rheumatoid arthritis at the Department of Medicine 3, Rheumatology and Immunology led by Prof. Dr. med. univ. Georg Schett during the following months.

His main research interest focuses on the role of an antibody called anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody (ACPA). ACPA is a biomarker of Rheumatoid arthritis, i.e. an indicator for the disease. FAU researcher Prof. Schett is a renowned expert in the field of the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. “This made me apply to FAU”, Sonomoto says. At FAU, Sonomoto will now examine what effect ACPA has on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which display anti-inflammatory qualities.

What is your field of research and what initially sparked your interest in this area?

My research area is rheumatology and immunology. My days as a rheumatologist prompted me to clarify the mechanisms underlying rheumatic, i.e. autoimmune diseases.

What were your reasons for choosing FAU as your host institution for a research stay abroad?

My main research interest is the role of the anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody (ACPA), known as a specific biomarker of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), in the occurrence of RA. Prof. Schett and his colleagues have published several articles of the role of ACPA in rheumatic diseases. This prompted me to apply FAU.

How visible is FAU in your field of research in Japan?

Prof. Schett is a well-known rheumatologist in Japan.

Could you give us a short summary of the project your research group is working on?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common inflammatory disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the joint. Chronic joint inflammation leads to joint destruction, which impairs the activities of daily life. Biologics that target cytokines improve arthritis and prevent the development of joint damage. However, there still are no specific therapies to repair damaged joints. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) supply structural components of the joint by differentiating into osteoblasts and chondrocytes and have anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, I considered MSCs as a new treatment tool for RA, including both suppression of inflammation and bone regeneration. My research has uncovered several functions for human MSCs (hMSCs). At FAU, the roles of ACPA on hMSCs function are under investigation.

How does your research affect or benefit society?

Uncovering the role of ACPA in RA will have an impact on establishing a fundamental treatment strategy.

What were your first impressions of the Erlangen-Nuremberg region?

Quiet and rich in nature.

What are your favourite places at FAU and in Erlangen or Nuremberg?

I like the Schlossgarten.

Thank you for the interview, Dr. Sonomoto.