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Research in physical medicine and rheumatology

In addition to the broad clinical activity, research is an important part in the department of physical medicine and rheumatology. Basic research is carried out in the University department of rheumatology in cooperation with our colleagues from the department of rheumatology at the Zurich University Hospital.

Research focus

Our clinical research focuses are as follows:

  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
  • Changes in vertebral bone marrow lesions (Modic Changes)
  • Clinical research on CRPS
  • Studying the effectiveness of cortisone, hyaluronic acid, and autologous blood used in the treatment of early arthritis in the knee


We look forward to hearing from you.

Portrait Stefan Dudli
Stefan Dudli, PhD
Research Group Leader

+41 44 510 75 11

Modic changes in low back pain

The "Global Burden of Disease Study" identified low back pain (LBP) as the world’s most common disabling condition. Vertebral bone marrow lesions adjacent to degenerated discs – called Modic changes – coincide with LBP. Modic changes are highly prevalent in patients with LBP but still a poorly understood degenerative disorder of the spine. As a result, patients suffering from Modic changes often do not receive adequate treatment.

The main reasons are as follows:

  • Modic changes are often not identified in primary care due to the lack of diagnostic tools
  • There is no targeted treatment available for painful Modic changes

Research aims

Our aims are to develop biomarkers and treatment strategies to eliminate painful Modic changes. We will achieve our goal by understanding of the interaction between intervertebral disc degeneration and the bone marrow, in particular bone marrow stem cells.

We are addressing this problem with deep characterisation of human surgical samples and evaluating their behaviour in in-vitro studies, using state-of-the-art molecular assays and cutting-edge technologies such as multiphoton excitation fluorescence lifetime imaging (MPE-FLIM) and high-dimensional fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS).

Research projects

In the research laboratory, we explore the biological processes of chronic low back pain and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).


We like to make our research available to the general public in media articles. Here you can find the latest articles.


On an ongoing basis, our researchers publish their latest findings in various scientific journals.

Specialty training in physical medicine and rheumatology

We offer doctors accredited specialty training in physical medicine and rehabilitation (category A) and rheumatology (category B). Here at the University Department of Rheumatology we have a closely linked training network with the Department of Rheumatology at the Zurich University Hospital. This allows specialty trainees to obtain all the relevant training at the two facilities.

Learn more

Irina Heggli, M.Sc.
PhD Student
Irina Heggli, M.Sc.
Nick Herger, M.Sc.
PhD Student
Nick Herger, M.Sc.
Tamara Mengis, M.Sc.
PhD Student
Tamara Mengis, M.Sc.
Melina Perez Vertti Valdes, M.Sc.
PhD Student
Melina Perez Vertti Valdes, M.Sc.
Borbala Aradi-Vegh
Biomedical analyst
Dr. med. Borbala Aradi-Vegh