Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful, potentially debilitating autoimmune disease that affects around 2-3% of the population over 60. It is characterised by chronic inflammation of the joint, which often leads to bone resorption and erosion. Current treatments for RA can inhibit further bone erosion, but the repair of existing bone lesions rarely occurs. This is partially due to that the bone-making Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) of RA patients show impaired ability to proliferate (grow and divide) and regenerate bone cells. Further, this loss of MSC function compounds with age. Thus, bone regeneration represent an unmet need in RA therapy.
Our research aim to identify epigenetic regulators that can re-activate the regenerative ability of MSCs in elder individuals and RA patients and understand the underpinning epigenetic process that leads to the control of MSC function during ageing and diseases.
The identification of epigenetic regulators of MSC function could lead to novel therapy to regenerate bone cells in patients with RA and elderly individuals with bone damage. In addition, the understanding of the molecular process that results in stem cell ageing will have important implications in our understanding of human longevity and innovations in regenerative medicine.