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 Studies of the Etiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The University of Colorado School of Medicine is conducting research on Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  RA can be found in children as well as adults and affects about 1% of the population in the United States.  It is a chronic, autoimmune disease* that causes inflammation in the joints leading to warmth, swelling, pain and bone erosions in the joints.  More women than men are affected, (three women to every one man) and RA occurs in ALL ethnic groups and all over the world.  (*See below for more information on autoantibodies and autoimmune diseases.)

What we know about Rheumatoid Arthritis:   
Certain genes have been found that seem to create a susceptibility or tendency for a person to develop RA.  However, most people with these specific gene types will never get RA.
Various autoantibodies* are present in most people with RA.  These include RF (rheumatoid factor) and anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide).  However, there is no single test that can currently establish the diagnosis of RA.

Environmental factors, such as exposure to infection, low levels of certain vitamins, and smoking have been suggested as possible triggers in the development of RA.                                                           
The purpose of this study:

  • SERA is identifying established and new, potentially important blood and genetic markers.
  • SERA is looking for the presence of various autoantibodies* in the blood of healthy people. These autoantibodies may be present before physical symptoms of the disease are evident. 
  • SERA is also looking at possible environmental factors that could contribute to RA.
  • SERA’s findings may lead to earlier diagnosis, and possible prevention of RA in the future. 

Who is eligible?
We are looking for anyone who is already diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and who has ONE or more living relatives who would also be willing to help us.  These relatives can be any of your parents, siblings or children over 18.

These relatives can live anywhere in the United States.  They do not need to live in the Denver area.

Participation is voluntary.
Your decision to participate in no way affects the care you will receive at your clinic. There is
no cost to you or your insurance company for the tests performed in this study.

What is required of our family if we are interested in joining the study?                                                                                     
Our clinic visit includes:

  • Height and weight
  • 2 questionnaires on personal medical history, specific environmental exposures and connective tissue diseases
  • Blood and urine samples
  • A joint exam and interview that documents any joint pain, swelling or stiffness  (This exam will only be done on those that live in the Denver area.)  

We are asking those family members without Rheumatoid Arthritis to return for visits every year or every two years.

How can I get involved?
Contact:   Elaine Hamburger BSN, MA, Clinical Nurse Coordinator
(303) 724-7511
1 (800) 363-5819 toll free

*Autoantibodies and autoimmune diseases
     The immune system is the body’s mechanism for fighting disease. Antibodies are one of the substances made by your immune system that recognize foreign agents, such as bacteria or viruses.  Antibodies help attack and fight off those foreign agents.
       Occasionally, some people’s immune systems do not work correctly, and the body confuses its own cells with foreign agents. The body then produces autoantibodies, which are antibodies that attack specific body tissues.  In the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, autoantibodies contribute to the inflammatory process that may lead to permanent damage in the joints and surrounding tissue. 
       Diseases that are a result of a malfunctioning immune system are known as autoimmune diseases. These types of diseases often run in families. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Lupus are examples of autoimmune diseases.


Additional Information
You may also contact:
Lezlie Derber, MSPH

SERA Study Coordinator
(303) 724-7510

Email Lezlie Derber 

Principal Investigator:  Jill Norris, MPH, PhD

Co-Investigators:  Michael Holers, MD; Kevin Deane, M.D.
University of Colorado School of Medicine

Additional Info:


Lezlie Derber, MSPH
SERA Study Coordinator
Phone: (303) 724-7510

Participation is voluntary.
Your decision to participate in no way affects the care you will receive at your clinic.

There is no cost to you or your insurance company for the tests performed in this study.