Arthritis Research UK has provided £384,000 for research into the early stages of inflammatory arthritis (IA). The money has been granted to a Cardiff University research team led by Dr Gareth Jones. Together with his colleagues, Jones will seek to clarify what drives the rapid progression of the disease, thus potentially improving the diagnosis process and allowing prompt treatment, the research charity said.
IA is the group of inflammatory joint diseases among which rheumatoid arthritis stands out due to its prevalence rate: estimates point to some 400,000 Britons suffering from it. This condition limits joint movement and can cause permanent joint damage and deformity, especially without medical treatment.
Germinal centres, which are clusters of immune cells, are typically present in body organs involved in infection defence mechanisms. However, it has been established that such clusters are often found in inflamed joint tissue: more than a quarter of people with early IA have them. It is believed that in their case the germinal centres play the part of local command centres, becoming responsible for rapid disease advancement.
Jones said that early treatment was crucial for achieving remission and preventing serious joint damage. This research project aims to discover more about the causes of rapid disease progression, which would help medical professionals spot the condition in its early stages and promptly prescribe treatment, Jones added.
Additionally, the research team will seek to determine whether the so-called IL-27 molecule can help predict germinal clusters and stop their development. The project will also examine current treatments to establish which of them are best at blocking cluster formation.