How are daily rheumatoid arthritis symptoms linked to the body clock and the bacteria in the gut?

DiseaseRheumatoid arthritis

Lead applicant – Dr Julie Gibbs

Organisation – University of Manchester

Type of grant – Senior Research Fellowship

Status of grant – Active

Amount of the original award - £748,457.30

Start date – 04 October 2021

Reference – 22625

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

This research will investigate how daily changes in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and joint inflammation are linked to the body’s own internal timing system (known as the body clock) and how the bacteria in the gut play a role in these changes.

Why is this research important?

Rheumatoid arthritis affects around 400,000 adults aged 16 and over in the UK. Many people with the condition experience a daily cycle of symptoms, with peaks and troughs throughout the day. Previous studies in mice have shown that the body clock drives daily changes in the cellular composition and activity of inflamed joints, however this process is not fully understood. The circadian clock (also known as the body clock) also contributes to daily variation in the make-up and activity of gut bacteria, which itself influences the immune system.

Unlike previous studies, this research will look at daily changes to symptoms, joint inflammation and gut bacteria together, to build a more complete picture.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Researchers hope to improve our understanding of how the body clock regulates rheumatoid arthritis symptoms by studying samples obtained from volunteers with inflammatory arthritis and using models of arthritis in mice. They will map the changes of gut bacteria over a 24-hour cycle and examine interactions between cells in arthritic joints during both the peak of symptoms and at times when symptoms are not so abundant. This could help to better target existing treatments for people with rheumatoid arthritis or lead to potential new targets for treatments in the gut bacteria.