Does removal of waste products by autophagy within the cells of bone and joint protect against musculoskeletal disease?

Disease - Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, Paget's disease

Lead applicant - Professor James Edwards

Organisation - University of Oxford

Type of grant - Career Development Fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £375,432

Start date - 1 April 2014

Reference - 20631

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Autophagy is the process through which healthy cells can remove waste products which have built up inside them. The process is normally tightly controlled, but in older human cells this control can be lost leading to reduced cell growth and function. This research will study how autophagy occurs in cells of the bone and joints to assess whether the process could be used to detect the early stages of musculoskeletal disease, and as a new treatment mechanism for damaged bones and joints.

Why is this research important?

The efficient removal of waste products and debris from within cells is crucial for their continued survival. This proposal will investigate whether poorly controlled autophagy acts as a factor in the development of bone and joint disease, such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. These diseases are common, and current treatments are often ineffective. A better understanding of this process may lead to both earlier diagnosis and better treatments.

Human tissue and mouse models will be used to explore what happen during autophagy in the cells of both healthy and diseased bones and joints. Autophagy will be monitored using new gold standard imaging techniques to determine whether it can be used as a diagnostic test.

How will the findings benefit patients?

A better understanding of the mechanisms which lead to bone and joint disease will lead to earlier diagnosis of diseases, and therefore patients will be able to start treatment sooner. This will have the potential to improve both the success of treatment and the long-term outlook for patients with diseases of the bones and joints.