Medical research charity Arthritis Research UK has awarded £184,000 to a team of researchers at the University of Aberdeen to study stem cells found naturally present in people’s joints in order to develop new treatments for joint problems such as osteoarthritis.
The research team at the University of Aberdeen, consisting of Professor Cosimo De Bari, Dr Anke Roelofs and Dr Andrea Augello, will use their three-year grant to study the role of stem cells in preventing or repairing joint damage.
One of the key questions that the researchers hope to answer is where stem cells in the joint originate from. The team hope their findings will lead to the development of new treatments that can prevent or halt osteoarthritis in its early stages.
Lead researcher Professor De Bari heads up the charity’s ground-breaking tissue engineering centre launched at the University in 2011 by former Aberdeen footballing star Willie Miller. This new research will build on existing work into stem cells and osteoarthritis.
One in six people are affected by osteoarthritis in the UK, a painful and debilitating disease that causes irreversible damage to cartilage and bones. The disease occurs when the cartilage ‘cushion’ between the bones of the joint gradually erodes, leading to rubbing of bone on bone. The most commonly affected joints are knees, hips, spine and hands.
Current treatment for people with osteoarthritis is limited to painkillers and joint replacement surgery. There is no cure or preventive treatment, although age, obesity and joint injury are known risk factors.
Professor De Bari said, “We know that stem cells in people’s joints are able to form new bone or cartilage cells and have the potential to repair damaged joints.
“We’re delighted to receive this funding from Arthritis Research UK as it will allow us to increase our understanding of the role of stem cells and harness their power to develop new future treatments.”
Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, Professor Alan Silman added, “Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis with an estimated 8.5 million people affected in the UK alone yet there are still no effective treatments available.
“This exciting programme of work from Aberdeen offers us the hope of vital new clues to develop new treatments for people living with this painful and disabling condition.”