Currently, treatments for osteoarthritis are limited to pain killers and physiotherapy until joints reach a stage where a joint replacement becomes possible. Researchers at the Arthritis Research UK Experimental Osteoarthritis Treatment Centre at the University of Leeds aim to fill this treatment gap by developing better and earlier interventions.
The centre is being jointly funded by £150,000 from medical research charity Arthritis Research UK and Össur, a global leader of non-invasive orthopaedics, over three years.
The centre will focus on osteoarthritis of the knee, which causes pain and disability to approximately six million people in the UK and is increasing as the population ages and becomes more obese – the two major risk factors for developing the condition.
More people now have knee replacement surgery than hip replacement surgery, and patients are being operated on at a younger age. Data from the Swedish Knee Arthroplasty Register shows that for a partial (unicompartmental) knee replacement the average age is now 64 in men, and 63 in women, compared to 71 20 years ago.
“Osteoarthritis has increased between two and four-fold over the past 20 years and will become even more common as the population ages and becomes more obese,” explained Professor Philip Conaghan from the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, a leading authority in osteoarthritis who is leading the research.
“More than two thirds of people with osteoarthritis have constant pain that affects their ability to perform normal daily activities, partly due to the limited treatment options available to them, and there’s an enormous need to find new ways of treating it, particularly aimed at treating people early and preventing them from becoming chronically disabled.
“This new centre has been developed to carry out the high quality research to identify, test and develop such treatment options.”
Professor Conaghan, professor of musculoskeletal medicine, and his team will investigate new and emerging methods of treating and alleviating osteoarthritis such as knee braces, special orthotic footwear, and looking at the effects of changing patients’ gait and posture. New imaging techniques such as MRI and ultrasound will be used to measure effectiveness.
“The success of the centre will depend on getting both charity and industry-funded studies through the centre, so we can act as a kind of conduit for new therapies coming out,” he said.
Leeds is a world leader in biomedical research with considerable experience in medical imaging, biomechanical research and clinical trials. The centre will combine the expertise of the Division of Musculoskeletal Disease, the NIHR Leeds Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit and the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.
The centre is being supported by a joint venture initiative between medical research charity Arthritis Research UK and orthopaedics company Össur. The partners are investing £150,000 over the next three years.
Dr. Thorvaldur Ingvarsson, executive vice president of research and development for Össur said: “Össur is committed to developing innovative product solutions to address the growing epidemic of osteoarthritis. Our partnership with the Arthritis Research UK solidifies our commitment to osteoarthritis research and clinically proven treatment options such as knee bracing. We are excited by the continued research in this crucial area of joint disease, and eager to further our understanding of the treatment of osteoarthritis.”
The Leeds centre is one of nine awarded nationally by the charity to support the testing and early development of novel treatments for arthritis.
Professor Philip Conaghan is available for interview. Contact Jane Tadman in the Arthritis Research UK press office on 01246 541107 or email [email protected]