Researcher Profiles

The Arthritis Foundation launches SciVal Experts Tool

To help you understand about the impact of the Arthritis Foundation research program, the Arthritis Foundation has launched SciVal Experts, a research profiling and networking tool. Three hundred of the Foundation’s currently and previously funded researchers from different institutions are included in the system.

Explore the profiles, publications, and grant data of hundreds of scientists who have received funding from the Arthritis Foundation.


Congratulations to Gary S. Firestein, MD, one of this year’s National Innovative Research Grant recipients from the Pacific Region. 

Dr. Firestein is a recognized international authority in the field of rheumatoid arthritis research.  This distinguished investigator, author and teacher currently serves as director of the Clinical and Translational Research Institute, dean and associate vice chancellor of Translational Medicine, and professor of medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.  Dr. Firestein joined the faculty as an assistant professor of medicine in 1988, and led the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at UC San Diego from 1998 until 2010.   He has served in leadership roles for governmental  agencies (Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) as well as professional organizations such as the American College of Rheumatology.      

In the 1990s, Dr. Firestein’s groundbreaking research on cytokines contributed to the development of biologic response modifiers to treat rheumatoid arthritis.  His current research focuses on how certain enzymes within cells control genes involved in inflammation.  The research will expand our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of disease in RA, leading to the development of new therapies and identification of diagnostic biomarkers. 

Dr. Firestein’s many achievements have been recognized by the Arthritis Foundation.  In 2006, he received the national Arthritis Foundation Lee C. Howley Sr. Prize for Arthritis Research.   Dr. Firestein also received the Arthritis Foundation, Pacific Region’s prestigious Jane Wyman Humanitarian Award in 2010 for his many contributions to rheumatology.   In addition to pursuing his research this year, Dr. Firestein has graciously volunteered to serve as Research Honoree for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis in San Diego. 

When not working in the laboratory, Dr. Firestein is an avid surfer and publishes a cooking blog with his wife, Linda Firestein (

Thank you, Dr. Firestein, for your on-going support of our mission and for your innovative research that is moving us ever closer to a cure! 


Dr. Ru Liu Bryan was awarded a 2 year $100,000 Research Innovation Grant from the Arthritis Foundation in March of 2013.  Her goal was to explore the hypothesis that therapeutic or preventative induction of AMPK might inhibit cartilage injury and suppress development of Osteoarthritis.  Dr. Bryan is Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, UCSD and also a principal investigator at Veterans Medical Research Foundation in San Diego.

In a recent interview with HEADLINES, Dr. Bryan provided some background regarding her research.  “As your readers are aware, OA is the most common form of arthritis and a leading cause of disability.  Unfortunately, no effective medical therapies are available yet to prevent or slow the OA disease process. Finding effective disease modifying therapies that target OA pathogenesis and suppress disease development and progression is an urgent and unmet medical need.”

Dr. Bryan further explained, “Our recent studies indicate that sustained activity of adenosine monophosphate -activated protein kinase (AMPK) in cells that reside in the cartilage, could be critical for maintaining cartilage tissue integrity. We have obtained evidence that mice that received treatment of the pharmacological agent that activates AMPK exhibit significant inhibition of cartilage damage, compared with mice that did not receive the treatment in a model of post-traumatic OA. We are currently verifying whether AMPK could be a potential therapeutic target by testing the effect of deficiency in AMPK activity on OA development. The big challenge is whether our laboratory preclinical studies can be translated into clinical applications.”

HEADLINES asked Dr. Bryan for her thoughts on where future research might lead in the battle to alleviate the suffering caused by OA and to potentially develop a cure.  “We still have a long way to have new and effective interventions to modulate OA symptoms and disease progression. Currently, diagnosis of human OA is made with appearance of the clinical signs of pain and X-ray evidence of bone spurs and joint space narrowing. However, X-ray has a poor sensitivity that does not allow an early detection of OA. Biomarkers have the capacity to identify early changes in joint tissues and diagnose OA during the pre-radiographic and radiographic stages of the disease, as well as aid in drug discovery and clinical trials.”

“At present, no gold standard for imaging biomarkers exists for studying OA in both human and animals. We will see more research on advancing imaging techniques such as using MRI to monitor early changes in OA including cartilage thickness and structural changes in the bone and soft tissues of the joint, and on developing, validating and refining molecular biomarkers that characterize OA progression. Biomarkers from animal models will be compared to human profiles and symptoms to evaluate how well the preclinical evidence correspond to the human condition, which is valuable for translational success.”

“Lastly, obesity, genetics, joint trauma and aging are major risk factors for OA development. We will also see research on exploring and understanding the interplay between the various factors contributing to OA development, which will ultimately help to develop better treatment options.”