Development of a new screening method for potential osteoarthritis treatments

Disease - Osteoarthritis

Lead applicant - Dr Anthony Holmes

Organisation - NC3Rs

Type of grant - Special Strategic Award

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £430,000

Start date - 1 January 2017

Reference - 21757

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

The task, set by the NC3Rs CRACK IT challenge, which this research aims to address, is the development of a device based on human tissue or cells for research and drug development in osteoarthritis, as an alternative to animal research.

Why is this research important?

There is an urgent need for relevant human osteoarthritis models for use in research. Currently it is not possible to study all aspects of this only by studying samples taken from people with arthritis and as such researchers end up needing to use animals with arthritis. As human osteoarthritis is difficult to replicate in animals, this is not ideal, therefore these researchers are looking at using cells to create a model of osteoarthritis. This model will be able to be used to test potential new drugs, and therefore replace the need for animal testing of these new treatments.

Cells will be used to represent different parts of a human joint and will be placed in a microfluidic device, which means that the cells will be able to communicate with one another as they normally do in a joint. The researchers will create 3D cell models, by printing the different types of joint cells and using varying amounts of particular cells to create specific models that represent the different stages of osteoarthritis; from mild disease to severe. They will then be able to test different drugs and assess their ability to stop or reverse osteoarthritis.

How will this research benefit people with arthritis?

This research will develop a new way of screening drugs for osteoarthritis that is more applicable to real life human osteoarthritis. This means that the experiments are more reliable, more cost-efficient and could lead to quicker development of drugs for use in osteoarthritis. The system will also reduce the number of animals used in osteoarthritis research.