The contribution of Stromal cells in shaping the Synovial MicroEnvironment of Psoriatic arthritis: pathogenetic mechanisms, Heterogeneity, and prognosis (StroPHe)


Recent evidence appreciating the contribution of stromal cell heterogeneity in pathophysiology emerges as a new opportunity to stratify arthritic diseases and develop more targeted clinical tools. The project group postulates that different synovial fibroblast (SF) profiles determine the nature of Synovial MicroEnvironment (SME), and fuel the development of different types of arthritic diseases by exhibiting differential sensitivity to inflammatory stimuli. The ensuing transcriptional responses dictate the changes in the cellular composition of the diseased SMEs, characterizing the distinct pathological and clinical findings in each arthritic phenotype. Consistent with the hypothesis, the group aims to explore the stromal-mediated causalities in Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) and delineate the PsA-specific SF profile. With the integrative transcriptomic and functional analyses, the group aspires to assist the generation of the distinct stromal codes governing arthritic diseases.

Facts and Figures

Project Lead
M Armaka
Biomedical Sciences Research Center Alexander Fleming, Vari
FOREUM research grant: € 591'960

Meet the Team

Project Lead

M Armaka
Biomedical Sciences Research Center Alexander Fleming, Vari
R Micheroli
University Hospital Zurich
G van Loo
VIB Center for Inflammation Research & Ghent University


To address the project's hypothesis, the group will follow a human/mouse integrative analysis, combining the high-resolution analysis of PsA-affected synovia with molecular and functional analysis on the pathogenic contribution of the SFs ex vivo and in modeled PsA. With this analysis the aim is to:

  • Provide the stromal cell atlas of PsA synovium at single cell level and identify synovial stromal signatures which uniquely characterize PsA  
  • Functionally assess the pathogenicity of the stromal responses in a new A20 mutant mouse model (A20Znf7) that develops PsA-like arthritis, characterized by peripheral arthritis, dactylitis, nail pathology and enthesitis.
  • Predict and preclinically examine new therapeutic strategies and targets, based on genetic and functional evidence


  • Milestone I: The PsA synovium at single cell level
  • Milestone II: The stromal codes of inflammatory arthritides
  • Milestone III: Pathogenic mechanisms in modelled PsA: focusing on stromal compartment
  • Milestone IV: Delivery of A20-ZnF7 protein domain as a therapy to suppress PsA

Patient Voice

The expected results will inform healthcare innovation and benefit the patients by providing targeted biomarkers for segregating inflammatory arthritides, and testing novel therapeutics.  Moreover, the high-resolution analysis will be deposited in public databases, serving as a key resource for the formation and validation of additional mechanistic hypotheses.

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