New funding for inflammatory arthritis research centre

Dr Vicky Morrison and Dr Andrew Butcher in the lab.

We know that inflammatory arthritis is having a huge impact on people’s lives, with the pain and fatigue people experience making it difficult to do to everyday tasks that most people take for granted. We also understand the great need for better more targeted treatments for people living with conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.

Over the past five years, the Universities of Glasgow, Birmingham and Newcastle have come together to form The Research into Inflammatory Arthritis Centre Versus Arthritis (RACE).

Their focus is on understanding why inflammatory arthritis starts, why it attacks joints, and why it persists. Their other priority is to understand why current treatments don’t work for some people when they work for others, with the overall aim of discovering and delivering better treatment for people with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

We’re extremely proud to announce that the centre has been awarded a further five years of funding from us, with Oxford University welcomed as the newest collaborating partner, bringing new expertise and a long-standing history of research into arthritis.

Great work achieved so far

The centre has already made huge steps forward in our understanding of inflammatory arthritis. Some highlights include:

  • Exploring interactions between immune cells and tissue cells of the joint, to better understand how persistent inflammation happens and how it can lead to tissue breakdown. The research team are looking to develop a treatment that would prevent tissue breakdown.

  • A clinical study using dendritic cells (generated from patients’ own white blood cells) which are injected into the knee, to help control inflammation. An initial study has been completed in Newcastle showing it is safe to inject these cells. It is now moving forward to a second clinical study, to track where the cells end up and how they control inflammation in the knee.

Lead researcher at Glasgow University, Professor Iain MacInnes said: “I am delighted to see the continuation of funding from Versus Arthritis for RACE. We believe our innovative collaborative approach has significantly advanced our understanding of rheumatoid arthritis. The work we do across all four universities aims to address the needs of the more than 430,000 people in the UK who are living with the pain and fatigue of this condition.

“We believe that the best way to do that is by working together seamlessly, to discover why and how the body’s immune system attacks the joints, so we will one day achieve our shared goal of finding a cure for rheumatoid arthritis.

“Finally, in this new phase we will for the first time also target other forms of arthritis, especially psoriatic arthritis.”

What does it mean for the future?

Rheumatoid arthritis 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 people; and even with the best available drugs, many people’s disease responds only partially, and sometimes not at all.

RACE’s research is leading to greater understanding of differences in treatment response so we can better tailor treatments to individual people.

We’re excited to be working together with the centre to look more closely at these conditions and hopefully improve treatments for many more people living with inflammatory arthritis.