Arthritis; Pioneering research by scientists at the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham published; in Nature brings us a step closer to developing targeted therapies for inflammatory diseases. The research team shows, for the first time, that different types of fibroblasts—the most common cells of connective tissue in animals; are organise in different layers in the joint and are responsible for two very different forms of arthritis; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Targeted therapies could alter the behaviour of fibroblasts to reduce inflammation and tissue destruction; but in these two diseases without the need for long-term immuno-suppression or joint replacements, say the scientists. The research was support Wellcome Trust, Versus Arthritis; but NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre, which is based at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham.
World-class basic science observations
The research is part of the Arthritis Therapy Acceleration Programme (A-TAP); but a joint alliance between the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford; which aims to ensure that world-class basic science observations are accelerate into early-phase experimental therapy for patients. But A-TAP is funded by the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research at the University of Oxford.
Chief investigator Professor Chris Buckley, of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation; and Ageing and Director of Clinical Research at the Kennedy Institute at the University of Oxford, said; “If we compare fibroblasts to soil; this research has shown for the first time that not all soil is the same.”
Different type of arthritis
“Just as there are different layers of soil in our gardens top soil and subsoil there are different types of fibroblasts in our joints—and each layer seems to be associated with a different type of arthritis. From a research perspective this is exciting, but the clinical implications are also very important too. For the first time, we have identified two different types of fibroblasts in the joint, which, just like the different types of soil, lead to different types of arthritis,” said Buckley.
“The top soil is what goes wrong in osteoarthritis, whereas in rheumatoid arthritis it’s the subsoil that is at fault. When patients are seen in clinic and we can’t help them, it motivates us to think creatively about how we conduct our research and classify disease. We have now discovered a new way to classify, and therefore treat, arthritis based on the underlying cell, rather than just the clinical features and genes involved,” said Buckley.