What role does the fibroblast cell play in joint inflammation and arthritis pain?

07 December 2021

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Researchers at the University of Birmingham, led by Dr Simon Jones, have been studying the way cells called fibroblasts affect the levels of arthritis pain and inflammation in people with osteoarthritis.

In people with osteoarthritis of the knee, the cells found in the joint-lining tissue were altered in painful areas of the knee. At the sites where people reported pain the tissue contained fibroblasts that promoted joint inflammation and the growth and survival of nerve cells.

Is this research the first of its kind?

This is the first study to demonstrate that the population of fibroblast cells and inflammation is changed in painful areas of the knee joint. The joint-lining tissue at the site of where people reported pain in knee osteoarthritis exhibits a different gene signature with specific subsets of the fibroblast cells.

Were these outcomes unexpected, and if so, why?

Inflammation of the joint lining membrane is a known characteristic feature of osteoarthritis. However, its association with joint pain has previously not been clear because both the location of inflammation and the location and severity of pain varies amongst patients.

How will this research help people with osteoarthritis?

Current pain-relief medications for patients with knee osteoarthritis have limited success and can be associated with adverse side effects.

This research suggests that new therapeutic drugs could be developed that are designed to regulate the activity of specific joint lining cells to help ease joint pain in osteoarthritis.

What’s next for this research?

The research will continue to explore exactly how the joint-lining cells can be targeted to regulate pain. This will hopefully support the development of new pain-relieving drugs for people with knee osteoarthritis.

Read more about our other osteoarthritis research projects:

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