Degenerative Diseases

Dr. Alison Agres, Dr. Peter Raffalt

Most of degenerative diseases can be diagnosed only at an advanced stage. Therefore, our work focusses on the early detection and diagnosis of such diseases in order to prevent the development.
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Arthritis is a degenerative disease that generally describes joint wear exceeding age-related physiological changes. This disease presents as one of two different forms: osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While OA develops due to increased loading, joint malalignment or bone deformation, rheumatoid arthritis describes a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder.

Both diseases can only be radiographically detected at an advanced time point when a conservative therapy is no longer sufficient, leaving only operative interventions as an option. We aim to detect and diagnose these diseases earlier, in order to preventively decelerate degenerative processes. A first approach involves the detection of functional changes in the joint kinematics of patients or subjects with an increased risk for degeneration, due to injury or joint malalignment (compare ‘Functional Adaptation’). To achieve this, we are currently developing methods for the precise quantification of functional joint instabilities, specifically in the knee and the metacarpophalangeal joint.

To determine the early onset of degeneration, pathological changes on both the structural and on the molecular level must first be detected. Therefore, established techniques have been employed in order to assess changes in tibio-femoral cartilage as well as in molecular biomarkers (obtained from serum and urine) that indicate degeneration and synthesis.

A detailed knowledge about the associations of functional joint instabilities and changes of cartilage volume and molecular biomarkers define a long-term aim that we want to investigate within different projects.

Running Projects

  • "Joint Research Project: Understanding and Prevention of primary Osteoarthritis progression (OVERLOAD-PrevOP) financed by Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Support Code 01 EC1408A
  • "Basis for an understanding of cartilage degeneration: The meaning of passive and active joint laxity for the pathological kinematic of the knee", financed by the German Research Society, DU 298/20-1
  • "Quantification of morning stiffness in patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis" funded by Horizon Pharma AG, Inc.
  • "NanoDiaRA",European Community´s Seventh Framework Program2 (FP7-NMP-2008-Large-2) under grant agreement No. 228929

Clinical Partners

  • Prof. Dr. med. Felix Eckstein, Institute for Anatomy and Musculoskeletal Research, Paracelsus Private Medical University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
  • Dr. med. Gerd Diederichs, Imaging Center Wilhelmshaven (GeRN), Wilhelmshaven
  • Prof. Dr. med. Frank Buttgereit, Clinic for Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Dr. med. Tobias Jung, Attending Physician (Oberarzt), Head of Knee Surgery and Sports Traumatology, Center for Musculoskeletal Surgery, CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin.

Industry Partners

  • Suzanne Bourdon, IBEX Technologies, Montreal, Canada

Scientific Partners

  • Dr. Rainald Ehrig, Zuse Institute Berlin (ZIB), Department of Computational Systems Biology
  • Dr. A. Robin Poole, Department of Surgery, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Dr. Patrik Önnerfjord, Lund University, Department of Clinical Sciences Lund, Lund, Sweden



Dr.-Ing. Alison Agres

Principal Investigator