Five exciting research projects we’re funding

17 June 2019
Lady researcher studying tests.

From the potential of broccoli to treat osteoarthritis to developing a vaccine to treat pain, we're investing in pioneering and innovative research which could make a real difference to the lives of people living with arthritis.

Read about five exciting research projects we’re funding.

1. Investigating the potential of using broccoli to treat osteoarthritis

We want to see if a naturally occurring compound in broccoli called sulforaphane can alter pain and physical function in osteoarthritis.

We’re investing £153,482.72 to a project being led by Professor Alexander MacGregor at the University of East Anglia.

We want to understand how diet could help to treat osteoarthritis.

There are no treatments currently available to prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

A naturally occurring compound in vegetables such as broccoli could provide one simple solution to help treat osteoarthritis.

The team will measure the effects of a broccoli-rich diet by giving people with knee osteoarthritis either broccoli soup or soup that looks and tastes like broccoli. They will then look at whether this affects pain and movement.

What will this mean for the future?

Successful outcomes from this research could help to provide a safe and low-cost treatment for osteoarthritis.

2. How does a baby’s kicks in the womb affect the development of their bones and joints?

We wanted to look at whether the position of a baby or the environment of the womb leads to abnormal joint development. This includes conditions such as hip dysplasia.

We invested £145,008.57 in a project led by Dr Niamh Nowlan at Imperial College London.

Developmental dysplasia of the hip is a common joint abnormality for which five in every 1000 babies born in the UK will require treatment.

Up to half of patients surgically treated for hip dysplasia as a child will develop osteoarthritis in later life.

There is a link between the way a baby kicks in the womb and the development of their joints.

The researchers used videos produced from advanced imaging techniques to create a computer simulation of the kicks.

From this the team were able to estimate the strength of the kicks as well as what stresses and strains those kicks put on the hip joint.

They found there is a link in the way a baby kicks and joint development.

They also found that certain conditions known to increase the risk of developmental dysplasia of the hip (first born, breech position and pregnancies where there are reduced levels of amniotic fluid) -influence kick force, which is lower in all these conditions.

What does this mean for the future?

By understanding more about the development of hip dysplasia, we are one step further in understanding how to screen or intervene for these abnormalities and prevent the development of osteoarthritis in later life.

3. Developing a vaccine to relieve persistent pain in arthritis

We wanted to develop a vaccine which prevents the release of chemicals responsible for causing osteoarthritis pain.

We invested £229,879.30 in a project led by Professor Martin Bachmann at the University of Oxford.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common joint diseases and one of the leading causes of persistent pain.

We know that a large proportion of people with the condition have found currently available pain relief ineffective, unsuitable for long term use or associated with side effects.

The vaccine has been effective at treating persistent pain caused by osteoarthritis in mice.

A new class of effective pain relief is needed and a vaccine is good option because it could be administered two or three times a year and reduce the cost of treatment, allowing it to be more widely available.

What will this mean for the future?

The initial results are positive and more rounds of testing needed. However, it is a step forward in the development of a new type of pain relief. 

4. Improving gout treatment by delivering nurse led care in a community setting

We wanted to find out how effective nurse-led care is for gout patients, in terms of treatment.

We invested £633,111.55 in a project led by Professor Michael Doherty at the University of Nottingham.

Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis caused by high blood urate levels.

It’s a condition which can respond well to drug treatment and lifestyle changes. Despite this, many patients receive no clear explanation of their gout, lifestyle advice or appropriate drug treatments to prevent further attacks.

Trials showed nursing care provided a more effective way of treating gout.

We funded a clinical trial in which nurses, trained in gout and its management, delivered a package of care that included providing individualised information and involving patients in decision making.

The results proved that nurse-led care is more effective at reducing attacks of gout, reducing urate crystal deposits and improving quality of life compared to standard treatment by GPs.

What does this mean for the future?

The results of this trial could now be used to influence national guidelines for GPs which will allow much more effective, long-term management of gout. 

5. Can we personalise treatment for rheumatoid arthritis by looking at a patient’s immune cells in the blood?

We want to see whether every person with rheumatoid arthritis has a particular profile or combination of white blood cells, which can be tested using a simple blood test, to predict which drug they will best respond to.

We are investing £253,210 in a project being led by Dr Sebastien Viatte at the University of Manchester.

There are several biological therapies available to treat rheumatoid arthritis, which are very effective. However, not all therapies work equally well in all people.

There is currently no way of predicting which treatment will be best for each person.

Researchers will take blood from people with rheumatoid arthritis before they start treatment on a biological therapy to analyse the types of white blood cells.

They will then see if there is a difference in white blood cells between people who respond well to certain treatments and those who do not.

What does this mean for the future?

If successful, this could help to develop a blood test that would guide doctors on the best treatment choice for each individual with rheumatoid arthritis. 

We’ve made great progress with our research but there’s is still a lot more to be done. With your support, we’re committed to develop new and better treatments for people living with arthritis.

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