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The University of Oxford and medical research charity Arthritis Research UK have announced a major new research centre that aims to find out more about the causes of the common joint condition, osteoarthritis.

Source: Arthritis Research UK Press Release

The £5.5m Arthritis Research UK Centre for Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis at the University of Oxford aims to understand more about the complex process of osteoarthritis in order to develop new therapies that slow down disease progression and reduce pain.

The new centre has funding of £2.5m from the charity for five years matched by £2.5m from the University of Oxford, and £500,000 from the Kennedy Trust.

October 7-13 marks the charity’s National Arthritis Week, set up to increase awareness of the devastating effect of arthritis on 1 in 6 people in the UK.

Osteoarthritis affects around eight million older people in the UK and is a major cause of disability. It occurs when the cartilage at the ends of bones wears away, leading to pain and stiffness.  Treatment is limited to pain relief, exercise, weight loss, and ultimately joint replacement, but there is currently no effective drug treatment to prevent it developing or getting worse.

Director Professor Tonia Vincent believes the formation of the new centre will create the highest concentration of osteoarthritis researchers with the broadest range of expertise in Europe.

Professor Vincent said: “We’re really excited about the opportunities this new centre brings, and the collaboration with scientists and clinicians who all want to make a real difference. 

“Much of our work will be basic science, but we aim to create a seamless transition, translating our lab-based discoveries into clinical benefit for patients. Our work has the potential to be moved into patients in a relatively short time.”

In one important strand of work, the research team plan to identify biomarkers (indicators of disease risk) in order to predict who will develop arthritis after suffering an injury to a joint.

Other areas of research will investigate whether cartilage has the capacity to repair itself and why people with osteoarthritis have pain.

One of the patient-focused work streams will involve people who have recently suffered an acute knee injury, and who are at considerably increased risks of getting osteoarthritis. Up to 50 per cent of people who have a joint injury will go onto to develop osteoarthritis.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK said: “Developing new and effective treatments for osteoarthritis is a major goal for our charity, as we are only too aware that there is a massive treatment gap for millions of people whose condition causes them chronic pain and disability.

“Osteoarthritis is not well-understood, and we need to understand the basic disease processes if we are to have a realistic chance of finding new therapies. Our new centre in Oxford is well-placed to do just that.”

The new centre has funding of £2.5m from Arthritis Research UK for five years matched by £2.5m from the University of Oxford, and £500,000 from the Kennedy Trust.

It will be based at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, with strong links to the nearby Botnar Research Institute, the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, the Functional MRI Centre at the University of Oxford and the Medical Research Council Unit at Harwell.

Arthritis Research UK receives no government funding and is the is the only charity in the UK dedicated to funding research into finding the cause, new treatments and cure for all forms of arthritis.

In National Arthritis Week Arthritis Research UK is appealing to the public in order to continue funding its vital work. People can help making a Joint Effort pledge during the week: either by supporting the charity’s work by raising money, by sharing their experiences of arthritis in a National Arthritis Survey or by finding out more about the realities of living with arthritis.

For further information about how to make a Joint Effort pledge, visit www.nationalarthritisweek.org.uk or call 0300 790 0444.

Links:
Arthritis Research UK Centre for Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis
Arthritis Research UK