How do serpin proteins help to protect against cartilage damage in osteoarthritis?

Disease - Osteoarthritis

Lead applicant - Dr David Wilkinson

Organisation - University of Liverpool

Type of grant - Career Development Fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £398,127.00

Start date - 02 January 2020

Reference - 22418

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research? 

Serpins are an important group of molecules which protect against unwanted activity of enzymes that break down proteins. This includes proteins such as collagen that help to make up the structure of cartilage. Serpins are significantly reduced in osteoarthritis, and this may contribute to loss of cartilage in the condition. Previous research found that serpins can protect the cartilage when used in the laboratory, however it is not clear how they act.

This research aims to investigate how serpin levels and activity are altered in osteoarthritis, understand how they can protect cartilage, and test the feasibility of using serpin biology as a treatment to stop the progression of osteoarthritis.

Why is this research important?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting over 8.5 million people, and cartilage breakdown is a key feature of the condition. Despite this, drug treatments are limited and there are currently none can prevent cartilage damage.

Previous research has found unwanted enzyme activity to be a cause cartilage destruction, and that serpins have the capability to prevent this destruction. This research aims to explore this further, understanding how the enzymes destroy cartilage and how serpins act to help slow or prevent this. This could open the potential for new treatments in the future.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Currently treatments for osteoarthritis are limited to pain management, with no drugs preventing the cartilage damage which can often lead to the need for joint replacement. This research aims to investigate targets which could slow or stop this cartilage damage, with the hope of developing new treatments in the future.