Our research centres

Primary care centre

Musculoskeletal problems represent the single largest group of chronic conditions for which patients consult their GP’s. The Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre is focused on reducing the existing wide variation of care, treatment and overall management of musculoskeletal conditions.

Research at this centre will focus on some of the most common musculoskeletal problems seen in primary care. These include osteoarthritis and chronic musculoskeletal pain, gout and polymyalgia rheumatica.

This centre was awarded to Keele University in 2008 and renewed in 2013 for a second term of five years.

Website: www.keele.ac.uk

Centre for biomechanics and bioengineering

This centre is based at the University of Cardiff and brings together experts in engineering, biomedical science, orthopaedics, rheumatology and physiotherapy to apply engineering solutions and basic science to the many problems caused by arthritis.

Research at this centre is focussed on investigating whether altering joint biomechanics can reduce excessive stresses on the joint, preventing or reversing the development of arthritis.

The centre also hopes to identify indicators of rapid onset of arthritis following injury, develop interventions to prevent disease development and progression, and develop tools to predict treatment outcomes, allowing the right treatment to be given to the right patient.

The outcomes of this research will inform and direct diagnosis and rehabilitation and identify new therapies for the treatment of osteoarthritis and back pain.

Treatment at an earlier stage should reduce the damage to joints affected by arthritis and benefit patients with joint injuries by developing new methods to prevent repeat injuries and aid recovery.

This centre was originally awarded in 2009 and renewed for a second term of five years in 2015.

Website: www.cardiff.ac.uk

Pain centre

The centre based at the University of Nottingham, brings together healthcare professionals and research scientists from different fields to create a national centre for research into understanding the mechanisms of pain in arthritis.

Research at this centre aims to better understand the biological basis of pain in osteoarthritis, to develop new drugs to treat pain more effectively and use a more targeted treatment approach for individuals.

Alongside this research, the centre is investigating the basic pathways of pain perception and the changes in the tissues caused by arthritis to identify new targets for developing treatments. This research should help us to develop clinical trials which address the major concerns of people with arthritis pain.

This centre was originally awarded in 2010 and renewed for a second period of five years in 2015.

Website: www.nottingham.ac.uk

Tissue engineering centre

This centre brings together clinicians and scientists from the fields of engineering, biology and material science with the aim of regenerating bone and cartilage by using the patients’ own stem cells to repair joint damage caused by osteoarthritis. The centre brings together expertise from Cambridge, Aberdeen, Newcastle, York, Keele and Oswestry.

Current treatments for early osteoarthritis are usually limited to non-surgical options such as pain killers and physiotherapy. Patients undergo joint replacement operations once the disease has progressed to joint failure, which involves major surgery and has associated risks.

Research at this centre aims to alleviate suffering at an early stage in disease by introducing novel treatments into damaged joints, and repairing damage through less invasive operations such as key-hole surgery.

This centre was originally awarded in 2011 and was renewed for a second term of five years in 2016.

Website: arthritistissueengineering.org.uk

MRC Centre for musculoskeletal ageing research

Both the MRC and the charity recognise that musculoskeletal ageing presents significant challenges to individuals, their families/ carers and the whole of the UK (socially and economically). It is considered such an important problem that both funders chose, in 2011, to invest in two complementary centres (CIMA and CMAR).

The MRC-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research (CMAR) was awarded to the Universities of Birmingham and Nottingham. Versus Arthritis contributed £625,000 and the Medical Research Council (MRC) £1,875,000, with extra support from the host institutes.

Research at this centre is focussed on understanding how and why we lose muscle, bone and cartilage as we age, and the role played by factors such as inflammation, metabolism, altered hormones and obesity in this process.

The loss of muscle, bone and cartilage as well as decreased function of the nervous system results in reduced control of movement and balance, which has a number of clinical consequences including osteoarthritis and increased risk of falls and fracture.

Researchers hope to detect the key factors which drive ageing of the cells and tissues that make up the musculoskeletal system. This will allow them to identify new drugs and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet, to maintain a healthy musculoskeletal system. This will reduce age related decline and keep individuals healthy and active for longer.

Website: www.birmingham.ac.uk

MRC Centre for integrated research into musculoskeletal ageing

Both the MRC and the charity recognise that musculoskeletal ageing presents significant challenges to individuals, their families/ carers and the whole of the UK (socially and economically). It is considered such an important problem that both funders chose, in 2011, to invest in two complementary centres (CIMA and CMAR).

The MRC-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing (CIMA) was awarded to the Universities of Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield in partnership with the Medical Research Council (MRC). Versus Arthritis contributed £625,000 and the MRC £1,875,000, with extra support from the host institutes.

Research at this centre aims to understand why our musculoskeletal system functions less well as we age and why older people develop conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and muscle weakness.

The centre also focusses it research on preventing and treating deterioration of the musculoskeletal tissues that occur as we age to help preserve mobility and independence in older people and thereby improving their quality of life.

Website: http://www.cimauk.org/

Centre for adolescent rheumatology

The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Adolescent Rheumatology is the world’s first centre dedicated to understanding arthritis in adolescents. In partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital, University College London and University College London Hospital, and with funding also provided by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSHCC), research at this centre will explore how and why arthritis affects this age group.

Having arthritis during adolescence is not easy and it is vital that teenagers with healthcare problems are given the best treatment to address their particular needs.

The centre’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of adolescents with arthritis by undertaking cutting edge research to understanding how and why arthritis develops and progresses in this age group.

This should lead to the discovery of new or better treatments as well as methods to prevent complications that adolescents with arthritis develop in later life (such as heart disease) and tests that may predict how the disease will progress.

The centre will also help raise awareness of the health needs of adolescents with rheumatic disease and ensure that teenagers have uninterrupted and full access to clinical trials, giving them access to the latest treatments. This centre also provides education, training and a national network to increase the number of experts in the area.

Website: http://www.centre-for-adolescent-rheumatology.org/

Centre for sport exercise and osteoarthritis

This centre is based at the Nottingham Universities Hospitals NHS Trust in conjunction with the Universities of Oxford, Southampton, Bath, Loughborough and Leeds.

The consortium is strengthened by several international collaborators, utilising expertise from Sweden, The Netherlands, Australia and USA.

This centre brings together experts in sports medicine and osteoarthritis, to understand the relationship between exercise, sport, injury, rehabilitation and osteoarthritis.

Research at this centre is focussed on gaining better insight into the development of osteoarthritis following sport and exercise injury and the risk factors associated with this. The research aims to provide everyday exercisers, recreational sportsmen and sportswomen, and elite athletes with up to date, evidence-based advice and information about taking part in sport and exercise so they can reduce their risk of injury and development of osteoarthritis.

Website: http://www.sportsarthritisresearchuk.org/seoa/index.aspx

Centre for osteoarthritis pathogenesis

To date, studies of osteoarthritis have largely been limited to investigating the processes occurring in late disease. This centre is based at the University of Oxford and their research aims to create new imaging techniques for diagnosing disease early, improve our understanding of why osteoarthritis develops, and identify novel disease markers which can be used for predicting disease development and progression.

The outcomes of this research will contribute to the development of new clinical tools and treatments that will transform the lives of people with arthritis.

Website: oacentre.kennedy.ox.ac.uk

Rheumatoid arthritis pathogenesis centre of excellence

This centre brings together expertise from the universities of Glasgow, Birmingham and Newcastle. Their research is focused on understanding what causes rheumatoid arthritis to develop, why the inflammation persists and why it attacks the joints.

Researchers will study a variety of different cells present in people with rheumatoid arthritis, the chemicals they produce and how the joint tissue itself responds.

Using a range of different techniques and models of arthritis, they aim to create a database of the molecules that cause disease to persist and use this information to further understand rheumatoid arthritis leading to the development of new and more effective treatments.

Website: www.race-gbn.org

Centre for genetics and genomics

This centre is based at the University of Manchester. The aim of their research is to understand the role of genetic factors in determining whether particular people are at risk of developing inflammatory arthritis and what happens when they do.

Arthritis is a complex condition for which susceptibility is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental or lifestyle factors. This centre focuses on rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Researchers at this centre, along with international collaborators, have contributed to large genetic studies which have identified many genetic risk factors associated with these conditions. Researchers at this centre now face the considerable challenge of examining these risk regions in more detail to determine how subtle changes in the genetic code influence the disease process.

Website: www.inflammation-repair.manchester.ac.uk

Centre for epidemiology

This centre is based at the University of Manchester. Their research is focused on investigating the cause and progression of musculoskeletal conditions in specific populations and the response to treatment. There is a particular focus on inflammatory arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis) and osteoarthritis.

Information such as previous medical history, disease severity and treatment will be collected from existing groups of patients, as well as large national databases of electronic health records, in order to develop new treatment strategies, such as computerised tools. This will guide treatment decisions and allow clinicians to target therapies to patients who are most likely to respond, leading to better patient outcomes.

Website: www.inflammation-repair.manchester.ac.uk

Arthritis Research UK MRC Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work

This centre is led from Southampton with partners from the Universities of Aberdeen, Lancaster, Liverpool, Oxford, Manchester, Salford, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Imperial College, London.

Research at this centre brings focused on addressing major research questions to reduce the impact of musculoskeletal disorders, such as back pain and arthritis, in the workplace.

Back pain, arthritis and other conditions of musculoskeletal pain are some of the main causes of incapacity for work in the UK, accounting for loss of 10 million working days per year at a cost of £7 billion.

This centre aims to identify cost-effective ways to minimise the impact of musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace and establish a national resource for advice on musculoskeletal health and work, accessible to Government, employers, workers, health professionals and patients, and actively promote best work and clinical practice.

Website: www.mrc.soton.ac.uk