Funding boost for new study into arthritis pain

The University of Nottingham and University College London have received a grant of £800,000 from Arthritis Research UK to develop new treatments for severe arthritis pain.

Millions of people around the world suffer with arthritis, a form of joint disorder that involves painful inflammation and stiffness of one or more joints. The research aims to improve the lives of these people by relieving the pain which causes much disability and distress.

The team, led jointly by Professor David Walsh, Director of the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre at The University of Nottingham and Professor John Wood from the University College London, hope their findings may lead to the development of new drug treatments which are more effective in fighting arthritis pain.

Professor John Wood said: “We know that many people with arthritis experience disabling pain every day, quite often brought on by carrying out simple activities such as walking or standing.”
Professor David Walsh adds: “Pain remains the biggest issue for people with arthritis, even after they have been using currently available treatments to their best effect.”

Currently people experiencing pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, two of the most common forms of arthritis, are offered pain relieving drugs such as steroid injections and ibuprofen which work by blocking the disease inflammation. Although these drugs work well for people experiencing low level pain, they can have little impact for people experiencing severe pain.

Professor John Wood’s team at University College London is working closely with the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre as a part of a programme of multidisciplinary, translational research, aiming to enhance understanding of arthritis pain and improving its treatment. They will use their funds for a four year study to look at the role of proteins and molecules involved in causing severe pain in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Professor David Walsh said: “We’re looking at whether arthritis is less painful when specific molecules are missing that are known to convert mechanical stimuli (e.g. touch, pressure, etc.) to nervous impulses to give us mechanical sensation. We are seeing which of these molecules are present in the joints of people with either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. From this we will be able to tell which specific molecule or molecules are mediating arthritis pain, so that we can develop and test drugs to those specific molecules as potential new treatments for arthritis. None of the painkillers that are currently available specifically block pain transmission in response to mechanical stimuli.”

Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, Professor Alan Silman said, “Although pain varies from person to person, in some people it can have a considerable effect and a debilitating impact on their daily life. This piece of research offers us a better understanding of the pain caused by arthritis and is therefore a hugely exciting study.”

Professor John Wood said: “We’re therefore delighted to receive this Arthritis Research UK grant to help increase our understanding of the exact role of the proteins and molecules involved in causing severe pain which remain largely unknown.”

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