Arthritis Research

Did you know:

Arthritis is not one disease, but rather a broad term that encompasses more than 100 very different disorders. All involve the joints and are characterized by chronic pain, limited mobility and decreased range of motion.

  • Nationwide, some 70 million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis – that’s one out of three – making arthritis one of the most pervasive diseases in the U.S. as well as the leading cause of disability.
  • Arthritis is not just a consequence of aging.  While most people’s joints do show some degeneration over time, many forms of arthritis are driven by immune system-mediated damage that can strike at any time.
  • There is no known cure for arthritis, but advances in science are helping us to identify ways to improve diagnosis and its treatment.

Addressing the Challenge

The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center has assembled a team of some of the world’s leading experts and specializes in the care of inflammatory arthritis. This includes forms of arthritis driven by the immune system  such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and  ankyosing spondylitis, as well as other conditions including osteoarthritis and gout.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA, rheumatoid disease) is an autoimmune disorder and can affect many joints, other organs, and the whole body. RA is often marked by flares and remissions or times when symptoms are more pronounced, then dissipate. Common complaints are joint pain and generalized stiffness throughout the day, joints that may feel warm and/or tender, and a general feeling of sickness and fatigue. The disease can makes it difficult to perform even routine activities, and impact the ability to fulfill social roles and obligations.

Advances in understanding the disease process have led to considerable improvments for people living with RA.  Early diagnosis and more aggressive treatment pathways make it possible for many more people to achieve “remission” of their disease, but we do not have a cure.  And current treatments can be associated with significant side effects.

The future however is bright as we understand more and more, and partner with patients in research toward a goal of personalized care. This requires us to recognizes both the unique biology of each person’s disease, along with the unique goals, preferences, and needs of each individual patient.

Our research programs in the lab focus on biomarker identification to better define disease risk factors and subtypes.  We work with colleagues in radiology to develop and test novel methods of imaging the joints with new MRI, CT, and molecular imaging modalities. Our clinical research programs are broad ranging, including studies on exercise and lifestyle interventions, understanding individual patient preferences, how pain is perceived and moderated, oral health conditions, lung disease in arthritis, improving how we evaluate disease activity with patient-reported outcomes, and clinical trials of investigational agents, including stem cell therapy.  All of our studies are linked with our robust patient databases.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic Arthritis is seen in people who have the inflammatory skin condition psoriasis.  Like RA, this is an autoimmune disease which can attack and damage joints, with similar consequences on quality of life.  As in RA, outcomes are improving for those with psoriatic arthritis with newer therapies and treatment approaches.  Unfortunately  psoriatic arthritis is not well recognized in the general medical community, resulting in irreversible joint damage occuring in many patients before they are diagnosed.

Our research programs in psoriatic arthritis also center on a database of patients with this condition.  Studies are ongoing to look at blood markers that may help to define disease subsets, to better understand the patient-relevant symptoms of the condition, and clinical trials of novel therapies that have great promise in improving outcomes.

Ankylosing Spondylitis and Spondyloarthropathies

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and other related spondyloarthropathies are also immune mediated conditions.  In contrast to rheumatoid arthritis, these conditions can affect the spine and lead to limitation of motion of the back, pelvis, and hips, as well as other joints in the body.  It unfortunately often takes a long time before people with this condition are diagnosed when joint damage and fusions have occured. New developments have identified promising pathways that are opening up new treatment possibilities for this condition.

Our active research programs are  identifying novel biomarkers in this condition, evaluating novel imaging techniques, and better understanding patient experiences.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting nearly 30 million nationwide. OA is a degenerative joint disease often described as “wear and tear” arthritis. A common complaint from patients is pain in the weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees and spine as well as involvement in the finger joints. Osteoarthritis increases with age. Repetitive movement and prior injuries also contribute to the disease, and younger people are increasingly affected.

There is currently less understanding of what causes OA.  Our research programs have focused on identifying risk factors for rapid progression, clinical trials of new therapies, evaluating new ways of imaging the condition, and working with laboratory scientists on designing and testing new treatments that may help to repair injured joints.

What Hopkins Is Doing

The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center treats patients, conducts cutting-edge research and trains physicians.

  • Its mission is to provide excellent clinical care while seeking to better understand the causes, treatments, and best treatment approaches for arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
  • Team members include clinical nurses, medical assistants and research and patient care coordinators who assist in patient care, as well as clinical psychologists studying pain, exercise and health concerns of arthritis patients.
  • These dedicated teams are committed to ensuring the highest quality, state-of-the-art care for arthritis patients as well as basic, translational, and clinical research that paves the way for new and better treatment options, slower disease progression, decreased symptoms and impacts, and potential cures.

World Renowned & Nationally Ranked

The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center falls under the umbrella of the Johns Hopkins Division of Rheumatology.

  • Hopkins has for 21 of the last 23 years years been voted #1 in the country by U.S. News & World Report as America’s Best Hospital and its Division of Rheumatology has been ranked #1 for the last nine.
  • The Division of Rheumatology operates a number of specialty clinics. The Arthritis Center was the first and is looked upon as a model for disease-focused care.
  • All Arthritis Center doctors are attending physicians and full-time faculty members at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and all are board certified in Rheumatology.
  • Our patients come from Baltimore and surrouding states,  and from across the country and around the world. In addition to receiving excellent medical care, patients may be eligible to participate in Hopkins research and benefit from novel treatment options while helping to advance the field for others with arthritis.
  • Arthritis Center investigators publish regularly in leading Rheumatology Journals, and present their research findings at national and international conferences.

A Collaborative Effort & A Long-Term Approach

The research in the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center encompasses many different rheumatic diseases. Most of our studies are multidisciplinary and highly collaborative efforts with faculty in our Division, in other specialties within Hopkins, and with investigators across the globe. Conducting basic science, clinical, and translational research, our experts are exploring new ways to diagnose disease, design clinical trials, measure outcomes, and deliver treatment. Our experienced research teams effectively integrate many studies with clinical care.

Areas of current research include:

  • Clinical, biochemical, genetic, and imaging characterization of arthritis patients
  •  Autoantibody discovery and characterization
  •  Improving patient-reported outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and spondyloarthritis
  •  Advanced and molecular imaging of arthritis
  •  Predictors of progression in osteoarthritis
  •  Periodontal disease in rheumatoid arthritis
  •  Exercise and nutrition in arthritis
  •  Inflammatory arthritis in the elderly
  •  Investigational medication trials

The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center

We invite you to learn more about the exciting work underway on our campus in Baltimore, MD. The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center was founded in 1998 and continues to expand its integrated clinical and scientific research programs. It’s here that

  • Physicians Turn for Cutting-Edge Expertise
  • Patients Receive State-of-the-Art Care
  • Innovative Research Translates to Scientific Advances and Improved Outcomes

How You Can Get Involved

Updated: July 24, 2015

Arthritis Center

About Arthritis Center

Founded in 1998, the Arthritis Center at Johns Hopkins is dedicated to providing quality education to patients and healthcare providers alike.