Ruby Siegel is searching for a better way to treat rheumatoid arthritis.Ruby Seigal

According to Siegel, this painful auto-immune disease affects one percent of the population worldwide and currently there is no cure. Siegel recently received a Graduate Student Fellowship from the Rheumatology Research Foundation (RRF). The fellowship includes $1,000 to Washington State University and $3,000 directly to Siegel to fund her research.

Siegel is a Ph.D. student in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program at the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS). She works in the research lab of Associate Professor Salah-uddin Ahmed on the WSU Health Sciences campus in Spokane. Her research involves cultured cells from the synovial lining of the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. She is looking into how these cells propagate inflammatory signals which lead to bone and cartilage destruction.

“A better understanding of inflammatory signaling pathways in human joint cells can point the way for targeted drug development for rheumatoid arthritis,” Ahmed said.

Siegel started on the project this summer, and will provide a final report on her findings to the RRF next year.

“Once we understand the target molecules, we can test compounds from natural sources or small-molecule inhibitors intended to halt progression of the disease,” Siegel said.

The RRF is the nation’s largest private funding source of rheumatology research and training. The RRF fellowship is designed for mentor-mentee pairs to encourage new researchers to specialize in the area rheumatology. Ahmed and Siegel submitted a project proposal in May 2018. The award includes complimentary registration and travel for the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) annual meeting in Chicago this October, where the research duo will be recognized along with other fellowship winners.

“I am excited to present a poster of our data in the Rheumatoid Arthritis Animal Models session at the ACR meeting,” Siegel said. “There are thousands of attendees, from researchers to rheumatologists to nurses to pharmacists. I will have the opportunity to present data from this project, to network with top rheumatology researchers, and to gather ideas for my future dissertation research.”

Siegel’s poster presentation will be at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago on October 21, 2018.

“Truly this award would not have been possible without the mentoring and encouragement provided by Dr. Ahmed, and the support of others in the lab,” Siegel said. The Ahmed lab researchers include Staff Scientist Anil Singh, and graduate students Sabrina Fechtner and Mahamudul Haque.

Siegel is from Spokane, Washington. She completed a bachelor’s degree in biology at Gonzaga University, and a master’s degree in biology and biotechnology at Eastern Washington University.

“I was impressed by the variety of research specialties and high caliber of the faculty here [at WSU]. It is exciting to see the growth of medical research here as well,” Siegel said. After completing her Ph.D., Siegel hopes to become the director of her own clinical laboratory.

Siegel’s research project will contribute to advancing human health through collaborative research, which is part of the WSU CPPS mission. Health science research in Spokane also contributes to the WSU Grand Challenges research initiative, specifically to the pursuit of healthier people and communities, deepening our understanding of health and the onset and progression of disease.