Edinburgh spearheads exciting research into osteoarthritis | Action Medical Research

Edinburgh spearheads exciting research into osteoarthritis

11 January 2001
Edinburgh spearheads exciting research into osteoarthritis Scottish experts are leading pioneering studies into the painful joint condition osteoarthritis, for which there is currently no adequate treatment. Leading medical charity, Action Research, has awarded a team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh to investigate why cartilage no longer protects the joint in osteoarthritis sufferers. The two-year project, which will investigate whether it’s possible to alter cartilage cell function, has the potential to lead to new therapies for patients. Leading the study, Dr Donald Salter, of the Department of Pathology says: ‘Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease and a major cause of pain and disability. ‘More than eight million of the UK population will have changes of osteoarthritis in one or more joints. More than one million will have symptoms requiring treatment. The condition often progresses to considerable disability which may necessitate joint replacement. ‘This new study has the potential to lead to novel therapies for a condition for which there is currently no satisfactory treatment.‘ Most people over the age of 60 will have osteoarthritis to some extent, although not everyone will have noticeable symptoms. Lifting heavy loads at work or being highly active in sport can lead to the condition, but generally, three times as many women are affected as men. In cases of osteoarthritis, mature cartilage cells show increased and altered activity, which promotes cartilage breakdown. This causes severe pain and restricts movement. Knees, hips, and the spine are the most severely affected joints and the pain can make it difficult to sleep. Action Research, which pioneered hip replacement surgery and the medical use of ultrasound scanning, has provided the study with almost £72,000. Dr Salter adds: ‘We’ve shown that, in normal cartilage, mechanical forces can act to maintain cartilage cell function. However, this effect is lost in diseased joints and the loss of the protective response promotes cartilage breakdown, increasing osteoarthritis. ‘Thanks to the funding from Action Research, we are able to continue with this new and important area of work, and possibly manipulate cells in osteoarthritis in such a way that they would respond in a protective manner and repair and maintain cartilage.’ Action Research launched its Touching Lives Campaign in early 2000, which aims to raise £1.5m for vital medical research to benefit children and families across the UK. Visit the website at www.action.org.uk For further information, please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541, or email nduckworth@action.org.uk
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