Two major new research centres at The University of Manchester aimed at improving the lives of people with arthritis are to be officially launched on May 19.
Leading medical research charity Arthritis Research UK is investing almost £5m over the next five years into the centres of genetics and genomics, and epidemiology.
The event will also be a celebration 60 years of epidemiological research at the university - funded largely by the charity - which has made a huge contribution to finding the causes of inflammatory arthritis and the factors that increase the risk of developing it.
The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Genetics and Genomics aims to capitalize on the exciting expanding knowledge in genetics and apply that to patients with inflammatory arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, by increasing the understanding of genetic factors that determine the risks of developing the disease, and identifying better target treatments based on genetic profiles.
The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology will investigate non-genetic factors which influence the onset and progress of inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The combined work of the two centres will lead to better strategies for preventing these diseases and reducing their severity. A specific focus will be to identify which treatment should be given to which patient. Both centres will be based within the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences’ Institute for Inflammation and Repair at the university’s Stopford Building on Oxford Road.
Osteoarthritis affects more than eight million people in the UK, and occurs when cartilage at the ends of bones wears away leaving leading to stiff, painful joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints, causing swelling, pain and disability in around 380,000 people in the UK.
Researchers based at the new centres have already made a number of important findings that have had a big impact on arthritis treatment including:
• establishing that smoking, obesity, eating lots of red meat and insufficient quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables are risk factors for inflammatory arthritis;
• helping to establish that biological therapies used to treat inflammatory arthritis can reduce heat attacks by lowering inflammation in the body;
• tracking down large numbers of genes that predispose people to developing inflammatory arthritis, including arthritis in children
• discovering that depression is much more common in people with rheumatoid arthritis than previously reported.
Professor Jane Worthington, director of the centre for genetics and genomics, said: “We’ve already discovered a considerable amount about the genetic risk factors for inflammatory arthritis, and we now want to combine this knowledge with information on non-genetic risk factors in order to develop methods to predict who will get arthritis, when, and how severely, and to make it easier to choose the right treatment first time.
Professor Deborah Symmons, director of the centre for epidemiology added: “These two new centre awards will enable us to continue to find better, more targeted therapies, highlight possible side-effects, with a view to improving the lives of the millions of people suffering from these painful conditions.”
Medical director of Arthritis Research UK Professor Alan Silman said: “Within these two centres there are some fantastically talented people engaged in very exciting, cutting-edge research that will make a real practical difference to arthritis patients. The more we know about the specific risk factors for groups and individuals, the more we can tailor treatments to meet their particular needs. We’re very happy to be supporting this research in Manchester.”
Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions. It relies on the generosity of the pubic to fund its research programme and other charitable activities."