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Body Clock Scientists Hope To Improve Arthritis Treatment

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Two scientists at the University of Manchester have been awarded a total of nearly £1.3 million to investigate the role of the body clock in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

It is well known that symptoms of arthritis get worse at certain times of the day. By studying the body clock it may be possible to improve treatments and pain relief, the scientists believe.

Dr. Qing-Jun Meng, in the Faculty of Life Sciences, works on body clocks, ageing and osteoarthritis. He has been awarded an Arthritis Research UK senior research fellowship, worth £845,918.

Dr. Julie Gibbs, in the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, focuses on body clocks and rheumatoid arthritis. She has won an Arthritis Research UK career development fellowship worth £434,767.

Both fellowships are for five years.

Dr. Meng and his team have already discovered critical links between the 24-hour rhythms in cartilage and joint tissue, the University of Manchester reported. With the new funding he will build on this research, using mouse models and patient samples to test the hypothesis that disruptions to the body clock increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. He will also look at targeting body clock mechanisms to alleviate symptoms of the disease.

Recent research by Dr. Gibbs shows that the body clock is a key regulator of inflammation. Next, she will focus on the inflammatory pathways critical to rheumatoid arthritis, examining how the molecular clock regulates the inflammatory process. It´s hoped that this will highlight potential new ways of treating the disease.

Commenting on the fellowship awards, Dr. Stephen Simpson, director of research and programmes at Arthritis Research UK, said: “The role of our internal body clock in generating 24-hour rhythms in both our behaviour and the activity of the cells and organs in our bodies is an exciting area of research, particularly recent discoveries on its role on the immune system. Its effect on the development of two very different but common types of arthritis is worthy of further study, and we´re hopeful that these two fellowships will take us closer to much-needed, more effective treatments for people with these painful, debilitating conditions.”