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Studying the trillions of bacteria which share our body space could lead to new treatments for immune diseases including the range of adult and childhood arthritides.

 

We are absolutely delighted with this Strategic Award from Arthritis Research UK. The funding will allow our consortium to push forward with its goal of bridging the gap between microbiome description and function, a key first step in unlocking the potential of the microbiome to yield new therapies for inflammatory diseases. - Professor Fiona Powrie

The bacteria that live in our gut, mouth and elsewhere on our bodies, collectively referred to as the 'microbiome', exert influence over the body’s immune system. Although many of these interactions are beneficial, changes in the microbiome may contribute to the development of immune and inflammatory diseases.

Now, a new consortium led by Professor Fiona Powrie FRS, Director of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology aims to unlock the link between gut bacteria and the development of immune diseases.

The £2 million research programme is funded by Arthritis Research UK and represents a substantial investment in this area by the charity.

Once defined, manipulation of the microbiome, and in particular specific bacterial species linked to disease, is expected to open up new possibilities for treatment across the range of inflammatory arthritides.

Professor Fiona Powrie explains: 'We are absolutely delighted with this Strategic Award from Arthritis Research UK. The funding will allow our consortium to push forward with its goal of bridging the gap between microbiome description and function, a key first step in unlocking the potential of the microbiome to yield new therapies for inflammatory diseases.'

Using a multidisciplinary approach, the programme brings together an international consortium of world leading scientists from multiple complementary disciplines.

The Oxford team at the Kennedy and the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) is joined by research partners from Birmingham and UCL, as well as collaborators in the US at Harvard University, New York University and Mount Sinai Hospital, New York.

Their extensive clinical, immunological, computational and microbiological expertise places them in a unique position to perform in-depth analysis to define causal relationships between distinct members of the microbiota and inflammatory arthritis.

The programme will shed light on the role of the gut microbiome in early arthritis, established rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and childhood arthritis, and is expected to reveal how manipulation of bacterial communities may present a novel therapeutic for this set of diseases.

The potential benefit from improving our understanding of the relationship between the microbiome and arthritis is huge and could transform healthcare. This research could lead to the development of entirely new treatments or preventative medicines which could be as simple as changing the way you eat.

Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research and programmes at Arthritis Research UK said:

'We hope that this award will help us understand the relationship between the bacteria in our gut and human health, specifically arthritis. This knowledge is absolutely essential if we are to develop new treatments that could one day revolutionise the way we prevent and treat painful and debilitating conditions like inflammatory arthritis.'

 

Image credit: Shutterstock.

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