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Rheumatology, Inflammation, and Immunity Research

The Division of Rheumatology, Inflammation, and Immunity at Brigham and Women's Hospital has one of the largest research funding bases and investigative teams of any rheumatology program in the country. The discoveries of our researchers in the areas of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and many other rheumatic diseases have transformed the practice of rheumatology and continue to improve the prognosis for patients.

Researchers in our division are investigating the underlying causes of rheumatic, inflammatory and immunologic disorders and are developing groundbreaking approaches to prevention and treatment. We study the full range of rheumatic diseases, including osteoarthritis, RA, lupus, gout, psoriatic arthritis, vasculitis and many others.

Since the division's inception in 1974, our research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health. Our annual research funding is over $27 million, including $20 million from the NIH, and our research team includes 23 faculty and 20 trainees.

Our laboratories and clinics are co-located at the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine. The facility brings together research, clinical care and education to accelerate the translation of research into more sophisticated, precise and personalized care. The Hale Building features eight floors of research space, including basic, translational and clinical research, patient information and consent rooms for clinical trials and an advanced imaging suite.

Learn about our large and acclaimed team of basic, translational and clinical researchers along with their labs.

Basic and Translational Science

Some of the most impactful work on RA pathogenesis has come out of the Brigham. The current division chief, Ellen M. Gravallese, MD, and former division chiefs, K. Frank Austen, MD and Michael B. Brenner, MD, and Soumya Raychaudhuri, MD, PhD, are among our faculty who have made significant contributions in understanding the origin and development rheumatic and allergic diseases.

The following is a brief look at our faculty's work in basic and translational research.

Basic Science

Through our basic research, our investigators study disease mechanisms in the context of a function rather than specifically in the context of a disease. Areas of focus include:


Studies of T cell function examine cytokine production, granzyme activities, B cell helper function and a range of interactions with other leukocytes. B cell biology includes antigen specificity and regulation of antibody and cytokine production. We are defining macrophage activation pathways and abnormal states in disease. Studies of stromal biology are revealing how fibroblasts enable and regulate chronic inflammation. Integrative analysis examines cell-cell interactions in normal and pathologic inflammation.

Cell biology

Investigators are studying a range of basic topics in cell biology, including translation, post-translational modifications, intracellular transport, signal transduction, cell stress events and cell death mechanisms. The results are advancing a fundamental understanding of cell biology. Insights from these studies are also being applied to understanding physiologic processes that underlie immune function along with pathologic conditions that contribute to immune diseases.

Computational biology

Advances in genomics and other high-dimensional assays has made it possible to generate large, complex datasets in pursuit of understanding human disease. These data require sophisticated computational algorithms to decipher as well as methods to integrate and cross-reference results with other external data. Our group has developed methods in genetics, transcriptomics, single cell transcriptomics, bibliomics and a wide range of other data modalities.


We are leading the way in using high-dimensional genomics, including single-cell transcriptomics and single-cell epigenomics, to define the key cellular components underlying complex disease. In addition, we are using these techniques to deeply phenotype human diseases. These powerful approaches have given us a view of the key immune and stromal cell states underlying rheumatic disease.

Translational Science

Our translational work uses basic, molecular and cellular techniques, as well as animal models, to study human disease. Areas of focus include:

Impact of inflammation on joint destruction in rheumatic disease

We are aiming to discover fundamental mechanisms of inflammation in rheumatic diseases and to dissect the impact of these inflammatory pathways on bone. This work has led to an understanding of the key pathways by which inflammation impacts bone in rheumatic diseases and has contributed to the change in focus in the treatment of these diseases, with a major focus on early intervention and disease modification. We are also studying the role of innate immune DNA-sensing pathways in autoimmunity and bone.

Disease deconstruction

We are using single cell RNA-seq, single cell ATAC-seq, Nuc-seq, CyTOF, spatial transcriptomics, flow cytometry and other high dimensional analysis to deconstruct the cell types, cell states and interactome in inflamed human tissues in RA, lupus and other diseases. This discovery-based approach is identifying a host of abnormal cells and pathways that drive end organ damage.

Animal models of disease

We are using a variety of mouse models of inflammatory arthritis, lupus, spondyloarthritis, osteoarthritis and vasculitis to interrogate mechanisms and test therapeutic opportunities in rheumatic diseases

Genetics of disease

Since the publication of the Human Genome Project, it has become possible to use large human cohorts, rapid genome genotyping and sequencing and advanced statistical genetics to map risk alleles for a wide range of human diseases. Our group has been paving the way in mapping alleles for RA, other rheumatic diseases and infectious diseases. Besides mapping 100+ risk alleles, we are defining genetic mechanisms and developing strategies to use these genetic results to enhance clinical care.

See a complete list of all the rheumatology labs and their websites below.

Rheumatology Labs

Clinical Sciences

The Section of Clinical Sciences, led by Daniel H. Solomon, MD, MPH, aims to determine the causes of rheumatic disease and to develop and test innovative prevention and treatment strategies. With an annual research budget of over $10 million and a 50-person team that includes 14 faculty and eight to 12 trainees, ours is the country's largest clinical research group in rheumatology.

Our diverse research interests span all rheumatic diseases along with orthopaedics, Lyme disease, pain in the inflammatory diseases, quality of care, pharmacoeconomics and safety of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). We explore these conditions and issues through clinical trials, observational epidemiology and studies of disparities.

Learn more about the Section of Clinical Sciences.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials of new therapies for rheumatic diseases are a critically important aspect of our division's research mission. Our active clinical trials program encompasses both observational and interventional studies in RA, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and other rheumatic diseases.

Historically, we have maintained a robust research enterprise in RA. Pioneering studies demonstrating the benefits of methotrexate for the treatment of RA led by Michael E. Weinblatt, MD, originated at the Brigham, as did landmark studies of biological therapies such as anti-TNF agents.

In addition, Dr. Weinblatt and Nancy A. Shadick, MD, MPH, lead the Brigham and Women's Rheumatoid Arthritis Sequential Study (BRASS). This registry began enrollment in 2003 and is comprised of over 1,500 RA patients followed over many years. It contains a robust dataset of disease characteristics with the goal of answering important questions about the management of RA, disease associations and predictors of disease.

The following registries also reside within our division:

  • Brigham Lupus Registry, a database of over 2,500 lupus patients at the Brigham
  • Brigham Cohort for Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Registry (COPPAR), a single-center PsO/PsA longitudinal disease registry including biorepository that captures relevant disease markers and treatment choices in a circumscribed population with a defined catchment area

Finally, the BWH Lupus Program, led by Karen H. Costenbader, MD, MPH, is dedicated to promoting the clinical care of lupus patients and research into various aspects of lupus, including new therapies, long-term disease outcomes, causes and health care disparities. In addition, clinical trials in lupus are conducted by Elena Massarotti, MD.

Our current clinical trials span a wide range of topics across rheumatology, inflammation and immunity. Please visit the Mass General Brigham Rally website to search for relevant studies.


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