Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence "Immune-Mediated Diseases" (CIMD)

Early Diagnosis of Arthritis

Fraunhofer FIT is a partner in the activities of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence "Immune-Mediated Diseases" (CIMD) − to develop an early diagnosis for sub-clinical arthritis, a condition with very little clinical signs of the disease. The Fraunhofer Board funds this project as a part of a high-priority strategic initiative.

Some two to three percent of the German population suffer from psoriasis. There is a very high likelihood that these patients develop chronic psoriatic arthritis: About 20 to 30 percent of psoriatic patients develop this type of musculoskeletal disorder, even though here therapy is the more effective, the earlier the disease is recognized.

Six Fraunhofer institutes have joined forces to develop early diagnostics of subclinical psoriatic arthritis. They aim to identify a profile of biomarkers that combines clinical data, innovative imaging and RNA analyses using liquid biopsy. Until now, therapy specifically targeting psoriatic arthritis in most cases starts at an advanced stage, when damage may be chronic already. The decision to diagnose psoriatic arthritis today is based on a combination of activity data, e.g., from clinical examination and x-ray or ultrasound imaging. It depends primarily on the experience of the clinical specialist.

Novel diagnostic methods include fluorescence imaging to detect early anomalies of microcirculation in finger joints as a sign of inflammation, as well as biomarkers derived from the patients’ blood plasma and serum.

The overall objective of the project is to bring together all relevant data in order to establish a biomarker profile combining serological and imaging data, which can be applied to the high-risk group of patients. It is expected this way early diagnosis will be improved and patient care significantly optimized. In this project, Fraunhofer FIT is developing the fluorescent optical imaging (FOI) analysis software to characterize joint inflammation automatically, objectively and reproducibly. Fraunhofer FIT is also responsible for implementing the research data management software, based on a data lake concept.

The project is part of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence "Immune-Mediated Diseases"(CIMD), which brings together four major areas of translational health research: Drugs, diagnostics, devices, and data. In the project, Fraunhofer FIT is collaborating with Fraunhofer IME (the project coordinator), Fraunhofer ITEM, Fraunhofer IZI, Fraunhofer IGD, and Fraunhofer IAIS.