BACKGROUND: Axial Spondyloarthritis (axSpA) is a chronic, inflammatory rheumatic disease that affects the axial skeleton, causing pain, stiffness, and fatigue. Genetics and environmental factors such as microbiota and microtrauma are known causes of disease susceptibility and progression. Murine models of axSpA found a decisive role for biomechanical stress as an inducer of enthesitis and new bone formation. Here, we hypothesize that muscle properties in axSpA patients are compromised and influenced by genetic background.

OBJECTIVES: To improve our current knowledge of axSpA physiopathology, we aim to characterize axial and peripheral muscle properties and identify genetic and protein biomarker that might explain such properties.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study will be conducted on 48 participants aged 18-50 years old, involving patients with axSpA (according to ASAS classification criteria, symptoms duration < 10 years) and healthy controls matched by gender, age, and levels of physical activity. We will collect epidemiological and clinical data and perform a detailed, whole body and segmental, myofascial characterization (focusing on multifidus, brachioradialis and the gastrocnemius lateralis) concerning: a) Physical Properties (stiffness, tone and elasticity), assessed by MyotonPRO®; b) Strength, by a dynamometer; c) Mass, by bioimpedance; d) Performance through gait speed and 60-second sit-to-stand test; e) Histological and cellular/ molecular characterization through ultrasound-guided biopsies of multifidus muscle; f) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) characterization of paravertebral muscles. Furthermore, we will perform an integrated transcriptomics and proteomics analysis of peripheral blood samples.

DISCUSSION: The innovative and multidisciplinary approaches of this project rely on the elucidation of myofascial physical properties in axSpA and also on the establishment of a biological signature that relates to specific muscle properties. This hitherto unstudied link between gene/protein signatures and muscle properties may enhance our understanding of axSpA physiopathology and reveal new and useful diagnostic and therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1537
Pages (from-to)342-349
Number of pages8
JournalActa Reumatológica Portuguesa
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Axial Spondyloarthritis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles
  • Spondylarthritis
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing
  • Young Adult


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