Due to the development of minimally invasive synovial biopsy techniques, research on synovial tissue is strongly accelerating, and numerous groups all over the world are getting familiar with biopsy procedures and analytical techniques. Clinical applications have never been so close; in this perspective, crossing the bridge between research projects and care is the ultimate goal that spirits the work performed by the teams involved in the EULAR Synovitis Study Group (ESSG).
US-guided and needle-arthroscopic biopsies are routinely performed by rheumatologists worldwide
Early diagnosis, prediction of disease severity and prediction of response to therapy are still unmet needs in Rheumatology. In order to deliver clinically meaningful answers to these questions, synovial tissue research needs to reach important milestones that we place in priority on the ESSG agenda:
Standardisation. Heterogeneous distribution of the inflammatory processes inside the synovium was one of the first hurdles faced by research groups in the past. It resulted in the definition of minimal numbers of samples (containing lining and sublining) to be obtained from a biopsy procedure in order to get a representative picture of synovial inflammation. Beyond these definitions, additional consensus statements need to be developed on minimal requirements regarding sampling procedures, preservation and storage of the samples and other pre-analytical steps.
Education. There is a high demand from young rheumatologists in being trained in the available synovial biopsy procedures. It is the wish of ESSG to organize regular training sessions, in close collaboration with the EULAR School of Rheumatology, in order to provide access to adequate information and experience in the field to our trainees.
Exchange of information. In view of the work-intensive collaborative projects developed inside ESSG, we intend to improve access to experimental data through a dedicated secure platform.
Research. Many high-quality research projects are presented at our meetings, and endorsed by ESSG. We want to put the emphasis on large-scale prospective multicentric research initiatives, which have the ambition to provide final answers to clinically relevant questions.
ESSG is an inclusive community of scientists and physician-scientists dedicated to high-quality research in the field of synovitis with the goal of implementing the systematic assessment of synovial tissue as a clinical tool. Increased interest in synovial biopsies is a world-wide trend, and ESSG wishes to promote collaborative initiatives with non-European scientists in the field. Preliminary contacts with ACR scientists taken by our previous chair, C. Pitzalis and D. Veale (=>2016), J. Fonseca and B. Lauwerys (2016-2018), showed common interests in developing pre-analytical standards and collaborative research projects, and ESSG is willing to promote the creation of a formal ACR/EULAR synovitis study group.