It is known that pain is a major symptom of conditions that affect the joints and muscles, including osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused when cartilage - the shock absorbing substance at the end of the bones - roughens and thins, and leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, disability and mental distress.
Over the past five years the centre has made great progress in a number of key areas. It has identified specific pain mechanisms of osteoarthritis pain, and has integrated laboratory and clinical research to demonstrate the way that a number of different molecules and cells in the body combine with changes in the nervous system and brain to cause arthritis pain.
This new knowledge has allowed the production of new and more accurate models of pain in osteoarthritis, and identified new ways to improve the treatment of arthritis pain.
Over the next five years it is hoped that our findings will help to develop new treatments and better ways of using existing treatments in order to improve the future of the 10 million people who live with arthritic pain. To achieve this, the research will consist of combining our expertise across key scientific and clinical disciplines together with the training of future generations of investigators. The focus will be on osteoarthritis of the knees, which affects more than 8 million people. It is also expected that the research will benefit people with pain from other forms of arthritis.
The aims of the Centre
Not all arthritis pain is caused by the same thing and different painkillers may help different people. Currently there are no good ways of deciding which treatment is most likely to work in any individual so our first aim, therefore, is to identify new painkillers and ways of using them.
Therefore, our first aim is to identify new painkillers and ways of using them. We will achieve this by:
- Performing clinical assessments and brain imaging to identify how pain is generated and processed from joints to the brain. By doing this we shall define the different pain mechanisms in different groups of people.
- Developing new treatments targeting these pain mechanisms.
- Developing a questionnaire that will help to advise people on which treatments are most likely to help them, including treatments that might work well for an individual, even though they might not work for all people.
Our second aim is to prevent arthritis pain getting worse with time.
Arthritis pain can change with time. We shall find out which aspects of pain progression are most important to people with knee osteoarthritis. We shall also develop new ways of measuring, predicting and prevent pain progression.
We shall accomplish this by:
- Following a group of people who have recently developed osteoarthritis knee pain, to find out how their pain changes with time, and how this might be caused by changes in the joint and brain.
- Using models of early osteoarthritis which mimic the changes experienced by people with arthritis pain, we shall test new treatments which should reduce pain progression, and select successful treatments for clinical development.
- Detecting those people who are most likely to experience worsening pain, so that they might consider treatments which reduce pain progression.
- Developing new treatments to prevent pain getting worse. We are studying some recently discovered chemicals called resolvins (endogenous lipids that are involved in the reversal of inflammation and tissue healing), which might stop inflammation and pain when they are no longer needed by the body.
The recent award of £2 million from Arthritis Research UK is now helping us to identify better ways to relieve arthritis pain.