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Investigating new approaches to treating pain in arthritis

Award Details

  • Principal Investigator
    Professor John Wood FRS
  • Type of grant
    Programme Grant Full application
  • Amount Awarded
  • Institute
    University College London
  • Location
  • Status
  • Start Date
  • Grant reference number
  • Condition
    Osteoarthritis, Knee pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis

What are the aims of this research?

Severe arthritis pain can be triggered by mechanical stimuli such as standing or walking. Recently a number of new proteins have been identified which may play a critical role in sensing these mechanical stimuli. This programme of work will use models of arthritis which do not have these proteins to identify the key molecules that cause arthritis pain, and find blockers of these proteins that may be new candidates for drug development.

Why is this research important?

Pain in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is a major problem for millions of people. Research has recently focused attention on two key components of osteoarthritis pain, referred to as `constant’ and `intermittent’ or ‘mechanical’. Intermittent pain is typified by transient but very severe pain that comes on in response to mechanical stimuli such as standing or walking. People with rheumatoid arthritis suffer similar mechanically evoked severe pain. Results from recent questionnaires have shown that mechanical pain is a major source of disability and distress for people with arthritis. Currently, pain associated with arthritic conditions is treated with general drugs such as steroids or ibuprofen, which block inflammation. These drugs can often blunt low level constant pain, but have little impact on mechanical pain. There is therefore a need for new classes of medication to treat pain in arthritis.

By studying the nerves involved in pain sensations, molecules that may be important in the mechanical pain characteristic of arthritis have been identified. This programme of work will investigate these proteins further, to determine whether they are essential for feeling mechanical pain in both models of arthritis as well as material from arthritic joints. Investigations will also be carried out in order to identify molecules that stick to these proteins and block their normal function, and therefore have the potential to be new effective treatments for arthritic pain.  

How will the findings benefit patients?

The results of this programme of work may lead to the development of new drugs which are effective against arthritis pain. The mechanical pain associated with arthritis is probably the most debilitating symptom, and finding new drugs which target this system rather than pain as a whole are attractive in terms of limiting side effects and thus providing more effective therapies.

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