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New UK Research Project Targets Treatments For Severe Arthritis Pain

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Over a period of four years, researchers from University College London (UCL) and the University of Nottingham will be involved in a study aiming to deliver new treatments for people suffering from severe arthritis pain. The project is being funded through an £800,000 grant from Arthritis Research UK, the medical charity dedicated to reducing the pain and disability brought on by this disease.

Professor David Walsh, who runs the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre at the University of Nottingham, and Professor John Wood from UCL will jointly lead the research team. The study will focus on the role of the proteins and molecules associated with the severe pain experienced by people with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The researchers hope that the results will pave the way for developing new, more effective drugs.

At present, OA and RA patients can relieve their pain by taking drugs that block the disease inflammation, typical examples being steroids and ibuprofen. But while such drugs can be effective in cases of low-level pain, they may not have any meaningful impact when patients suffer from severe pain.

Professor Walsh pointed out that pain remained the number one problem for arthritis patients, even when they have availed themselves of existing treatments to the best effect. The new project will seek to determine whether pain levels are lower when certain molecules converting mechanical stimuli to nervous impulses are missing. This could provide a new target for arthritic pain drugs. No painkiller among those currently on the market has been specifically designed to prevent pain transmission in response to mechanical stimuli, he noted.