A voice in the dark: reducing persistent pain in young people with arthritis

Disease - Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Lead applicant - Professor Maria Fitzgerald

Organisation - University College London

Type of grant - Project Grant

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £237,183.38

Start date - 1 November 2016

Reference - 21322

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common type of arthritis diagnosed in children, often persisting into adulthood. Studies of rats with inflammatory arthritis have shown in cases of JIA that pain experienced during childhood can lead to enhanced sensitivity to pain into adolescence and adulthood. This research aims to investigate why and how this happens using a variety of methods in the laboratory and in the clinic.

Why is this research important?

Even after the arthritis itself has resolved, many young people with JIA still continue to experience persistent pain that negatively impacts their quality of life. Previous research in this area has focused on the symptoms rather than why this happens and how it can be prevented. If this research can provide a greater understanding to why pain during childhood alters future pain perception, this will help to guide future treatments for persistent pain.

The research will use rats to understand the mechanisms of pain in JIA. Relevant chemical signals between pain nerves and immune cells will be measured, the identified signals will then be blocked to find out which ones cause the pain. Understanding how these signals work can help to identify potential new targets for treatments.

At the moment some current treatments fail to relieve persistent pain in some JIA patients. Using the information from these studies, they will look at how current treatments reduce the pain producing signals identified. Pain sensitivity in JIA patients will be recorded to help future clinical studies of any new drugs to reduce this pain.

How will the findings benefit patients?

JIA often continues into adulthood with persistent pain continuing to be a problem even though the arthritis has been controlled. The research methods described above will aim to identify new treatments and strategies that could be used in a clinical study to stop or reduce JIA pain. This will improve the quality of life for people with JIA, giving them better control and independence.