Three scientists who have advanced understanding of the autoimmune processes behind rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been awarded the Crafoord Prize in Polyarthritis by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The 4 million kronor ($618,000) award will be shared by Peter K. Gregersen MD of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset NY, Lars Klareskog MD of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and Robert Winchester MD of Columbia University "for their discoveries concerning the role of different genetic factors and their interactions with environmental factors in the pathogenesis, diagnosis and clinical management of rheumatoid arthritis."
In the late 1980s, Gregerson and Winchester identified the first genes associated with rheumatoid arthritis and confirmed that they are part of the HLA histocompatibility complex. Klareskog discovered that the risk of RA increases dramatically among smokers if they carry HLA risk genes, especially if they carry antibodies against citrullinated proteins, whose fomation is triggered by smoking.
Together these discoveries have supported an increasingly accepted hypothesis that the most common form of RA may arise in the lungs.