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Oa centre develops innovative technologies to investigate cartilage breakdown and repair

The fight against osteoarthritis (OA) is on at the Kennedy Institute’s Centre for Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis. We have been awarded two research grants looking at different aspects of OA with the ultimate aim of developing novel treatments for this painful and disabling condition.

OA is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, causing the joints to progressively become painful and stiff and making everyday tasks very difficult for patients. When a joint develops osteoarthritis, the cartilage on the end of the bone gradually roughens and becomes thin, whilst the bone underneath thickens.

Osteoarthritis is also the biggest healthcare challenge in rheumatology as there are no effective treatments available; patients rely on painkillers and eventually joint replacement surgery.  

Professor Tonia Vincent, lead researcher for both projects says of the awards: “These two projects are deeply embedded within our OAPathogenesis Centre and will help to stratify patients for future clinical trials and to identify novel therapeutic targets’”

Cartilage repair.

In collaboration with researchers at Utrecht University, this innovative study will look to validate novel markers of cartilage repair in OA patients, paving the way for a potential powerful, cheap, and acceptable treatment for many with advanced OA.

New evidence suggests that osteoarthritic cartilage is able to repair itself if the adverse mechanical environment of the joint is corrected; this has a significant and sustained improvement in pain, but also on cartilage ‘re-growth’. Researchers have identified molecules – biomarkers – that are activated following joint injury and likely drive repair responses, in mouse models. Identifying these biomarkers of successful repair in OA patients has the potential to change the way we view disease, empower patients into believing that their disease is modifiable and open up new possibilities for cheaper, globally applicable treatments.

Project title: Identifying markers in the synovial fluid of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) that predict their ability to repair cartilage
Funder: Arthritis Research UK Project Grant

 

Novel non-invasive imaging method.

The team at the Kennedy Institute, led by Professor Tonia Vincent and Dr Ngee Han Lim, will work to develop a novel imaging agent that can be combined with microCT scanning to create a sensitive, quantitative cartilage assessment tool in OA.

Investigating the pathways that cause OA has been very challenging as the human condition is very variable in its course, it is difficult to obtain tissues from patients and we currently have no way of detecting early disease. In this context, animal models of OA have significant utility because disease can be studied at all stages of the condition, tissues are readily available, and the onset of disease is known.

Evaluation of joint damage both in clinic and in animal models of OA is hampered by the inability to image cartilage accurately and non-invasively. A non-invasive imaging method that would be able to visualise the degradation of cartilage over time would greatly reduce the numbers of animals being used in arthritis research, as well as being potentially translatable into a clinical imaging agent for early OA in humans.

Project title: Development of novel imaging agents for the prospective quantification of joint damage to reduce animal numbers is osteoarthritis research
Funder: NC3Rs – National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research