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Major new research centre to tackle crippling condition of rheumatoid arthritis

Published on 25 June 2013
Professors Chris Buckley, Iain McInnes, and John Isaacs

Medical research charity Arthritis Research UK has 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 Glasgow, Newcastle 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 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 centre, headed by Professor Iain McInnes at the University of Glasgow, 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 with basic scientists, clinicians and industrial partners who all want to make a difference,” said Professor McInnes.”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 SilmanProf 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.”

Focus on Birmingham

Professor Chris Buckley

Our researchers in the Rheumatology Research Group in Birmingham are leading the way in the fight against early rheumatoid arthritis by catching and treating it quickly. Jane Tadman reports on their progress.

Focus on Newcastle - the search for a cure

Professor Alan Silman

Arthritis Today provides a research update from Newcastle Musculoskeletal Research Group, which is celebrating its new European Centre of Excellence status.

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Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.