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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease which adversely affects the quality of life and the survival of adult patients, including children.

Current drug therapies mainly achieve relief of the symptoms of the disease, are expensive, last for long and have got a high risk of side effects while in many cases they are ineffective. There is therefore a need to develop therapeutic strategies to achieve a high benefit with the minimum possible risk.

Anastasia Papadopoulou, Ph.D. of the School of Biology in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, made an impression with the results of her research work, which was crucial for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and was awarded with the International Young Investigator award for 2011.

This project is part of her doctoral thesis in which she proposes an original type of cell therapy using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

Greek biologist honored with the Young Investigator Award for 2011

The research that brought the award

The mesenchymal stem cells seem to have potent immunomodulatory effects and they could potentially treat an autoimmune condition such as RA. They are easily isolated from the bone marrow and other tissues (adipose tissue, umbilical cord material, amniotic fluid), are effectively developed into cultivation giving rapidly high numbers, and their use does not appear to connect with a high toxicity.

The research has shown that MSCs do not work by themselves when there is an inflamation and they are effective only in combination with a brief pre-treatment with the Bortezomib drug, which modifies the inflammatory disease microenvironment allowing MSCs to act therapeutically. Consequently, they can be an important treatment option for RA in the future.

The research was held in the context of multidisciplinary cooperation of the School of Biology of AUTH with the Gene and Cell Therapy Center of Hematology Department of "G. Papanicolaou" General Hospital of Thessaloniki. This is a treatment that has occupied both the scientific community of the biotechnology industry and people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, hoping to treat the disease.

17th International Society for Cellular Therapy Annual Meeting, 2011

The research of Dr. Anastasia Papadopoulou won the international award, getting the highest score among hundreds of projects, at the 17th annual International Society for Cellular Therapy (ISCT), which was held on 18-21 May 2011, in the Netherlands.

Leading experts in cell research from 40 countries in the world participate in ISCT, which focuses on innovative treatments through cells and it is the agent through which pharmaceutical companies keep abreast of developments in cellular research, in order to develop these products.



Anastasia Papadopoulou, PhD of the School of Biology, AUTH.

Minas Yiangou, Professor of the Department of Genetics Development and Molecular Biology, AUTH.

Yannaki Evangelia, Hermatology – Redactor A’ { Attending Hematologist}, Hematology Department – Gene & Cell Therapy Center, «G. Papanikolaou» General Hospital, Affiliate Assistant Professor of University of Washington - Seattle.

Achilles Anagnostopoulos, Director and Head, Hematology Department BMT Unit, «G. Papanikolaou» General Hospital.