Gene regulating severity of tissue damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis discovered by scientists

**** NO REPRODUCTION FEEE **** DUBLIN : 10/10/2013 : Arthritis Ireland. Pictured was XXX. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

Professor Gerry Wilson and his team have identified a new protein (C5orf30) which regulates the severity of tissue damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, pain, stiffness and damage to the joints of the feet, hips, knees, and hands.

Following the discovery published in the scientific journal PNAS (27 August), rheumatoid arthritis patients most likely to suffer the severest effects of the condition can now be identified early and fast-tracked to the more aggressive treatments available.

Although there is no cure for RA, new effective drugs are increasingly available to treat the disease and prevent deformed joints. Self-management of the condition by patients, including exercise, is also known to reduce pain and resulting disability.

To conduct the research, the international team of scientists from University College Dublin and the University of Sheffield, funded by Arthritis Ireland and the University of Sheffield, analysed DNA samples and biopsy samples from joints of over 1,000 Rheumatoid arthritis patients in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“Our findings provide a genetic marker that could be used to identify those RA patients who require more aggressive treatments or personalised medicine,” said Professor Gerry Wilson from the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin, who led the research.

“They also point to the possibility that increasing the levels of C5orf30 in the joints might be a novel method of reducing tissue damage caused by RA”.

Dr Munitta Muthana from the Medical School at the University of Sheffield, who co-authored the study said: “These exciting findings will prompt us to further explore the role of this highly conserved protein that we know so little about, and its significance in human health and disease”.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common inflammatory of the types of arthritis affecting around 1% of the population. It is estimated that 30% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis are unable to work within 10 years of onset of the condition. It affects more women than men, and often more severely. It is also most common between the ages of 40 and 70, but it can affect people of any age including children.

One of the biggest difficulties with treating the condition is early diagnosis. With early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, it is possible to reduce the damage to the joints caused by RA. Deciding the most appropriate treatment for each patient at the earliest possible stage is central to effectively tackling the condition.

“Investing in research to find new treatments and ultimately a cure for arthritis is one of our key objectives at Arthritis Ireland,” said John Church, CEO, Arthritis Ireland.

“Treatments for arthritis have improved enormously over the last number of years. Thirty years ago, rheumatologists’ waiting rooms were filled with people in wheelchairs. Today, that is no longer the case. The outlook for a person diagnosed with arthritis in 2015 is much brighter than it used to be. We are getting closer and closer to personalised medicine. This discovery is further proof that we are in the right space and investing our money wisely,” he added.

Major focus on arthritis at first approved Irish stem cell manufacturing centre

Arthritis will be a key focus area for a new manufacturing plant in Galway, the first inNational University of Ireland Galway Ireland to be approved to culture stem cells for human use.

The Irish Medicines Board issued the licence for the pioneering facility, based in NUI Galway, which aims to tackle a number of conditions as well as osteoarthritis, including heart disease, diabetes and associated conditions.

The centre, which has been developed by researchers at NUIG’s regenerative medicine institute, is one of a select few in Europe authorised for stem cell manufacture,

Stem cells work to repair the body and can be isolated from tissues such as bone marrow and fat, and cultured in laboratory settings.

More controversially, embryonic stem cells have been highly valued for their ability to turn into any type of cell in the body, but scientists can now use reprogrammed adult skin cells to create a stem cell that is very similar to embryonic versions.

Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock is launchjing the centre today with the facility’s new director Prof Tim O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien said that the stem cells must be grown in the laboratory to generate sufficient quantities, following their isolation from the bone marrow of adult donors, and the facility will help Ireland to develop therapies for a broad range of clinical problems, such as arthritis, which do not have effective treatments today.

Director of REMEDI

Prof. Frank Barry

“It will also allow us to translate discoveries from the basic stem cell research programme led by Prof Frank Barry at the Science Foundation Ireland-funded REMEDI to the clinic, and to be competitive for grant funding under the Horizon 2020 programme of the EU,” he said.

“We can only engage in clinical trials with clinical authorisation from the IMB and approval from the hospital ethics committee, and we are currently seeking such approval for clinical trials,”he said.

“The license to manufacture is an essential pre requisite to seek permission to undertake clinical trials. The license certificate must be included with the clinical trial authorisation application.”

NUIG president Dr Jim Browne said the centre develops Galway’s role as a “med tech hub of global standing”, while Irish Medical Devices Association board member John O’Dea has pointed to the lucrative revenue to be earned from regenerative medicine products, valued at about €1.3 billion in 2013 and with a 40 per cent sales growth last year.

Some 70 per cent of pharmaceutical companies are working on regenerative medicine therapies – an area described as a crossover between biology and engineering – and NUIG estimates that there are over 1,900 cell therapy clinical trials under way globally.

Arthritis Ireland welcomes the announcement of the new approved facility which is a significant development towards finding new treatments for people living with osteoarthritis.

For more information, visit the NUI Galway site here.

People with Osteoarthritis Benefit from Glucosamine and Chondrotin Supplements – Study

Two commonly-used supplements in the treatment of osteoarthritis do have glucosaminebenefits for people living with the condition, new research reveals.

A new study from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre in Canada found that using a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate to treat osteoarthritis can prevent joint deterioration.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and usually develops gradually, over several years, affecting a number of different joints. The cause is unknown and currently no cure currently exists. Treatment is limited to pain relief, self-management and joint replacement for severe cases.

To conduct the research a total of 600 patients with knee osteoarthritis were divided up, based on whether they received conventional pharmacological treatment and/or  glucosamine/chondroitin sulphate over a 24-month period, before being assessed for knee structural changes using quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI), an advanced medical imaging technique.

Results published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases revealed that patients taking glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate experienced a reduction in cartilage volume loss over the two-year period.

This beneficial effect was seen regardless of whether the patients were also receiving a more conventional treatment using analgesic therapies or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

It was also revealed that many of the positive effects of these supplements could not be detected using standard x-ray imaging, but were demonstrated by using qMRI..

An Arthritis Ireland spokesman said: “We very much welcome any evidence that points to effective treatment for osteoarthritis as it is an extremely painful and debilitating condition that affects hundreds of thousand s of people in Ireland.  However, it is important to note that this is just one isolated study as glucosamine and chondroitin have both been subject to a large number of clinical trials with varying results.”

*NOTE: For anyone with osteoarthritis who is taking the glucosamineglucosamine sulphate solution Dona, it is now available from your pharmacist without prescription.