The research team will use their three-year grant to look at which genes are associated with a person’s hip shape and which hip shapes are more likely to lead to osteoarthritis. The team hope their findings will lead to the development of new treatments targeting the genes responsible for causing the condition.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in adults, affecting around eight million people in the UK. Although the condition can affect any joint in a person’s body including the spine and knees, it is very common in the hips, and can affect one or both hips. Currently there is no effective treatment other than pain relief and, ultimately, joint replacement surgery.
People may be at greater risk of developing hip osteoarthritis if they have had hip problems at birth or abnormal hip development in childhood, such as Perthes’ disease. Physical work such as farming may also increase the risk.
Other risk factors linked to developing osteoarthritis are a person’s weight, age and sex, but there is also a strong genetic link. This team’s work has previously shown that there are specific hip shape elements which play an important role in the development of the condition in the hip.
Jonathan Tobias, Professor of Rheumatology in the School of Clinical Sciences, who is heading up the study with a Bristol-based team, said: “We already know that there are several different abnormalities of hip shape associated with osteoarthritis development. For example, it’s thought that hip deformity in babies can lead to osteoarthritis in later life. But we hope that by increasing our knowledge of this genetic component further, we’ll be able to better understand the disease and ultimately improve prevention and treatments for people living with it.”
Medical director of Arthritis Research UK, Professor Alan Silman, added “Osteoarthritis is a major health issue and can cause considerable pain and disability for many people. We’re therefore delighted to award funding to the team at the University of Bristol as their research offers us hope in better understanding the genes involved and it’s an important step forwards towards developing new and effective treatments for people.”