Newcastle University is leading the way in research into rheumatoid arthritis

Newcastle University is spearheading a new research centre that aims to find out more about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis

Newcastle University's Prof John Isaacs, professor of clinical rheumatology and director of the Institute of Cellular Medicine
Newcastle University's Prof John Isaacs, professor of clinical rheumatology and director of the Institute of Cellular Medicine

A major new research centre that aims to find out more about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis will open tomorrow.

Experts at Newcastle University are leading the £2.5m Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence, which hopes to address the unmet needs of the 400,000 people who suffer the crippling condition.

The scheme is a joint venture between Arthritis Research UK and the Universities of Newcastle, Glasgow and Birmingham. The three universities are committing a further £4m over five years.

Researchers at the three-site centre, led by Newcastle University’s John Isaacs, professor of clinical rheumatology and director of the Institute of Cellular Medicine, will investigate the complex causes of the debilitating illness.

He said: “We’re really excited about the opportunities this new centre brings, and the consequent collaboration between basic scientists, clinicians and industrial partners who all want to make a difference.

“There is a massive unmet need for better treatments for rheumatoid arthritis; there is no cure, and many people are still suffering. We now have a fantastic chance of doing something about it.”

Specialists will examine the mechanisms of auto-immunity that cause rheumatoid arthritis and why there is currently no cure for the painful joint condition. The experts will focus on why pain in the joints cannot be suppressed in at least a third of patients, despite treatment with modern biological therapies.

Father-of-two Brian Anderson, 53, of Benwell, Newcastle, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis two years ago.

The lorry driver said: “It is so important that research is done into the condition as it not only helps develop new treatments but it is a step forward in the right direction of hopefully one day finding a cure.”

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory, auto-immune condition that affects the joints and the body’s internal organs leading to chronic pain and fatigue. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself. Although drug treatments have improved in the last two decades they are not effective in all patients.

Much of the research will be laboratory-based, however, the aim of the centre is to develop new therapies that will provide patients with treatment that will work best for them early in the course of their disease.

Prof Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK said: “This initiative brings together under a single umbrella internationally renowned groups from three universities in a co-ordinated approach to solving this major form of arthritis.”

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