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Roslin Institute researchers win Arthritis Research UK funding

Medical research charity Arthritis Research UK is funding new a study at The Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh that offers new hope for people with osteoarthritis by preventing the painful excessive bone thickening often seen in the joints of people with the condition.

Image of Professor Colin Farquharson and the Arthritis Research UK logo

Professor Colin Farquharson's research team has been awarded £179,000 from the charity to carry out a three-year study investigating bone changes around joints that take place in osteoarthritis.

Researchers hope the findings will provide clues for how to stop disease progression and even provide a new treatment.

Progressive thickening of the bone underneath the joint cartilage is a hallmark of osteoarthritis and is thought to trigger cartilage destruction, leading to further progression of the disease. The team will look at whether a protein, called E11, is responsible for making bone cells that are capable of producing a protective protein, called sclerostin, which acts as a natural shield against bone thickening in osteoarthritis. If so, they hope to harness its action for a potential new drug therapy.

Existing treatments for people with osteoarthritis are extremely limited, partly due to a lack of understanding of the disease. New and effective therapies for this condition, which is often very disabling for people, are therefore very much needed. However to achieve this, it is necessary to first identify the key factors involved in disease onset and progression.

The role of E11 in osteoarthritis has not yet been explored. The team will examine first the role of this protein in the disease and then look at whether progressive bone thickening can be limited by increasing levels of E11.

Professor Colin FarquharsonThe Roslin Institute

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease worldwide. In the UK, around a third of people aged 45 years and over, totalling 8.75 million people, have sought treatment from their GP for the condition. The condition causes pain and stiffness in the joints due to cartilage at the ends of bones wearing away.

Osteoarthritis has a significant personal impact on people's lives as it causes chronic pain and joint dysfunction.

This study offers hope of an improved understanding of the bone changes in osteoarthritis, which has the potential to lead to the development of new, more effective treatments to combat and prevent this disease.

Professor Alan Silmanmedical director at charity Arthritis Research UK

Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions. Receiving no government funding, it is the UK's fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis.


For further information, please contact Wesley Hutchins in the Arthritis Research UK press office on 020 7307 2228 or