Dr Francesca Barone MD, PhD

Dr Francesca Barone

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Wellcome Trust Clinician Scientist, Honorary Consultant in Rheumatology

Contact details

College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Francesca Barone is a Wellcome Trust scientist working as Rheumatologist Consultant in UHB and Sandwell and West Birmingham Trusts.

Her main interest is in understanding the relationship between stromal cells and leukocyte in the development of chronic inflammatory process. 


  • PhD Medicine 2008
  • Specialization as Rheumatologist 2007
  • Medical Degree in 2001


During her undergraduate course in Italy, Francesca developed a strong interest in research and once obtained her degree she decided to suspend her clinical training to do a PhD. She move to London in the laboratory of Professor Pitzalis to investigate the mechanisms that regulate the acquisition of lymphoid organ features in the salivary gland inflammatory infiltrates of Sjogren’s Syndrome patients, with particular focus on the factors that regulate lymphocyte organization and survival within the gland.

She obtained her Specialization and PhD in 2007 and 2008, respectively. She then embarked on a period of post-doctoral studies looking at the physiological biology of mucosal B cells, under the supervision of Doctor Jo Spencer at KCL. During this period she has also worked as Honorary Rheumatology Consultant in close contact with the Oral Medicine unit at Guy’s Hospital in London.

In 2010 Francesca moved to Birmingham to study the mechanisms regulating leukocyte/stromal cell interaction in humans and animal models of inflammatory diseases. She obtained a Wellcome Trust Clinician Scientist fellowship in July 2010 to develop her research interest as clinician scientist and start her own independent group.

She works as Consultant Rheumatologist in the UHB and Sandwell and West Birmingham Trusts, with a main clinical interest in inflammatory arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Since 2014 she has been the Head of the eSSential – EULAR Sjogren’s Syndrome Experimental aNd Translational Investigative Alliance (EULAR) study group.


Teaching Programmes

  • Pharmacy module 3:1 Module Leader
  • MBChB IIH (2nd year) Tutor
  • Immunology Master Lecturer

Postgraduate supervision

Francesca is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following areas:

• Role and regulation of stromal cell function during inflammation and resolution
• Generation, organisation and maintenance of ectopic lymphoid structures in target organs of autoimmune disease
• Clinical and pathogenic aspects of Sjogren’s syndrome
If you are interested in studying any of these subject areas or if you have any general doctoral research enquiries, please email f.barone@bham.ac.uk

For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.




Inflammation, tertiary lymphoid structures, stromal cells, histological aspects of chronic inflammation in particular Sjogren’s syndrome. Pathogenesis and histological features of Sjogren’s syndrome.


Francesca’s research is focused on understanding the mechanisms regulating the complex interaction between stromal cells and leukocytes in different phases of the inflammatory process and its resolution.

Leukocyte stromal cell interaction in ectopic lymphoneogenesis
During organogenesis, the interaction between leukocytes and stroma is critical for stromal cell activation and formation of lymphoid organs. In target organs of autoimmune diseases the inflammatory cells infiltrating the issue organized themselves in structures that closely resemble secondary lymphoid organs in a process called ectopic lymphoneogenesis. While physiologic lymphoneogenesis has been largely defined in its mechanisms, little is know about the cells/signals that regulate the formation of ectopic lymphoid structures during disease. Francesca research is aimed to understand, using both in vivo models of inflammation and human samples of patients, the mechanisms regulating the formation of ectopic lymphoid structures with particular emphasis on the signals that regulates the activation of stromal cells to the acquisition of a lymphoid-like phenotype.

Role of ectopic lymphoneogenesis in inflammation
The role of ectopic lymphoid structures in the dynamic of the inflammatory process is not clear. Some evidence even suggests that ectopic germinal centres might support lymphoma development during chronic inflammatory processes. Francesca group aim to understand the functional role of ectopic lymphoneogenesis in the balance between persistence and resolution of the inflammatory process and the role that stromal cells, including blood endothelial and lymphatic cells play in this process.

Immunophenotyping and histological characterization and analysis
Part of Francesca's group is focused on the use of histology as biomarker for disease stratification and outcome in clinical trials. The experience acquired on salivary gland analysis has recently been implemented by the use of digital system of analysis to generate reproducible data to be used for report in clinical trials and to perform patient-driven stratification.


Other activities

Since 2014 Head of the EULAR study group:

“eSSential – EULAR Sjogren’s Syndrome Experimental aNd Translational Investigative Alliance Study Group”. http://www.eular.org/myUploadData/files/Investigative_Study_Group_Sjogren.pdf

Consultancy for GSK, Celgene, UCB.


Priori R, Barone F, Alessandri C, Colafrancesco S, McInnes IB, Pitzalis C, Valesini G, Bombardieri M. Markedly increased IL-18 liver expression in adult-onset Still's disease-related hepatitis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2010 Dec 13.

Francesca Barone*, Anna Vossenkamper*, Laurent Boursier, Wen Su, Alan Watson, Susan John, Deborah K. Dunn-Walters, Paul Fields, Sonali Wijetilleka, Jonathan D. Edgeworth and Jo Spencer. Immunoglobulin A-producing plasma cells originate from germinal centers that are induced by B-cell receptor activation in humans. Gastronterology in press

Setti G, Hayward A, Dessapt C, Barone F, Buckingham R, White K, Bilous R, Hiroshi K, Gruden G, Viberti G, Gnudi L. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ agonist rosiglitazone prevents albuminuria but not glomerulosclerosis in experimental diabetes. Am J Nephrol. 2010;32(5):393-402. Epub 2010 Sep 3.

Patel P, Barone F, Nunes C, Boursier L, Odell E, Escudier M, Challacombe S, Brostoff J, Spencer J, Sanderson J. Subepithelial dendritic B cells in orofacial granulomatosis. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2009 Nov 18.

F.Barone, P. Patel, J. Sanderson, Jo Spencer. Gut-associated lymphoid tissue contains the molecular machinery to support T cell-dependent and T cell independent class switch recombination. Mucosal Immunol. 2009 Nov;2(6):495-503. Epub 2009 Sep 9.

Zhao Y, Dunn-Walters DK, Barone F, Spencer J.Antisense transcripts of V(D)J rearrangements; artifacts caused by false priming? Mol Immunol. 2009 Jul;46(11-12):2357-62. Epub 2009 Apr 28.

Spencer J, Barone F, Dunn-Walters D. Generation of Immunoglobulin diversity in human gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Semin Immunol. 2009 Feb 20.

Conigliaro P, Priori R, Bombardieri M, Alessandri C, Barone F, Pitzalis C, McInnes IB, Valesini G.Lymph node IL-18 expression in adult-onset Still's disease. Ann Rheum Dis. 2009 Mar;68(3):442-3.