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New centre to tackle rheumatoid arthritis


Newcastle University and Arthritis UK have announced a major new research centre that aims to find out more about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.

The £2.5m Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence, a collaboration between the Universities of Newcastle, Glasgow and Birmingham, aims to address the unmet needs of the 400,000 people who suffer from the crippling joint condition.

The three participating centres are committing an additional £4m in financial support over five years.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious, inflammatory, auto-immune condition that affects the joints and the body’s internal organs leading to chronic pain and fatigue. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself. Although drug treatments have considerably improved in the past 20 years they are not effective in all patients.

Researchers at the new three-site centre, led at Newcastle University by Professor John Isaacs, professor of clinical rheumatology and director of the Institute of Cellular Medicine, will investigate the underlying causes of rheumatoid arthritis. They will focus on the mechanisms of auto-immunity that cause rheumatoid arthritis to start, and why it doesn’t stop. This results in chronic inflammation in the joints which cannot be suppressed in at least a third of patients, despite treatment with modern biological therapies.

Although much of the research will be laboratory-based basic science, the ultimate aim of the centre will be to develop new therapies that will provide patients with specific treatment that will work best for them early in the course of their disease, without the need to try an array of different drugs.

The centre will be driven by collaborative partnerships by bringing together three world-class institutes with a track record of joint working, with each university bringing expertise in different fields and access to large groups of patients.

“We’re really excited about the opportunities this new centre brings, and the consequent collaboration between basic scientists, clinicians and industrial partners who all want to make a difference,” said Professor Isaacs. ”There is a massive unmet need for better treatments for rheumatoid arthritis; there is no cure, and many people are still suffering. We now have a fantastic chance of doing something about it.”

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK said: “Rheumatoid arthritis is a complicated disease particularly as it is a state where the body’s control of the immune system is lost, resulting in long-term inflammation in the joints. There are several possible paths that researchers need to follow to fully understand the underlying nature of the problem and hence direct the development of new treatments. This initiative brings together under a single umbrella internationally renowned groups from three universities: Glasgow, Newcastle and Birmingham in a co-ordinated approach to solving this major form of arthritis in our population.”

Press release courtesy of Arthritis UK

published on: 6 June 2014