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Researchers to pinpoint genetic causes of osteoarthritis


Newcastle University scientists are to carry out further research into the genetic origins of osteoarthritis, following a major breakthrough last year. 

John Loughlin, professor of musculoskeletal research and research fellow Dr Louise Reynard have been awarded four new grants with a combined value of more than £730,000 from medical research charity Arthritis Research UK.

Their group will carry out a detailed study of the most significant genetic regions to emerge from the world’s biggest ever-genome wide study into osteoarthritis, also funded by Arthritis Research UK.

The arcOGEN study, led by Professor Loughlin, which was published in The Lancet  last year, discovered eight new genetic regions associated with the cause of osteoarthritis – a major breakthrough in determining the genetic basis of osteoarthritis.

The research group will now carry out a further more detailed investigation in several of these highly significant genetic regions.

In one of a number of related strands of research, they will investigate which genes in the region are active in the joints and are likely to be the culprits harbouring the genetic changes that influence the risk of osteoarthritis. They will look for unusual activity in joint tissues, recording subtle effects and DNA changes within the genes.

“We hope that not only will these new studies help to find out what changes influence osteoarthritis risk, but that it will also reveal DNA targets for future therapies,” explained Professor Loughlin.

Osteoarthritis affects around eight million people in the UK, causing pain and disability. There is currently no cure for the condition.  Treatments for early osteoarthritis are limited to non-surgical options such as pain killers and physiotherapy until joint replacement becomes a viable option. Osteoarthritis is a complex disorder with both environmental and genetic causes. It is estimated that about 50 per cent of an individual’s risk of developing osteoarthritis is due to inherited genetic factors.

Professor Loughlin added: “We still do not know the cause of this complex disease which causes pain and disability to millions of people.  With a greater understanding of the genetics behind this condition, we will be able to deliver therapeutic benefits for patients.  Once we know if a particular gene is under or over active, we will be able to alter its activity level to ease disease symptoms or even reduce the chance of the disease developing.”

Press release courtesy of Arthritis Research UK

published on: 25 February 2013