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Promising new OA treatment set for clinical trial

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The University of Liverpool, in partnership with AKL Research and Development Ltd, is preparing to launch a clinical trial of a new osteoarthritis (OA) drug that may improve pain relief and slow the progression of the disease.

The drug, known as APPA, was developed by AKL. Pre-clinical animal testing trials have demonstrated significant pain relief from OA, improved functionality and the slowing of cartilage destruction.

Now, the first human trial is due to commence at the Liverpool Clinical Trials Unit (LCTU), led by rheumatologist Professor Robert Moots from the University’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease.

Professor Moots said: “The severe pain from OA is usually managed with prescription drugs that are often not effective and that also, in many cases, induce unacceptable side effects. In many cases, major joint replacement surgery is needed to help deal with the pain. This is surely wrong.

“This drug has huge potential to provide an effective treatment for OA. A reliable and easy way to treat OA has clear potential to save large amounts of money for the NHS and greatly improve the lifestyle and health of patients.

“Working with research and development companies like AKL is crucial for the development and introduction of new treatments to benefit patients now and in future generations. We are excited to move this programme of trials forward.”

Professor Steven Edwards at the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology is researching how APPA affects human cells, especially activated neutrophils.

He explained: “Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cells and form an essential part of our immune system. There is now considerable evidence to show that neutrophils are activated in inflammatory diseases. They are however a ‘two-edged sword’: they are required to protect us from infections but their inappropriate activation can result in irreversible damage in inflammatory diseases.

“The ‘holy grail’ of anti-inflammatory targeting of neutrophils is specifically to block their tissue-damaging activities, but not compromise their ability to protect us. Work is ongoing but to date it appears that APPA does not target the host defence properties of neutrophils but does block their pro-inflammatory activities.”

David Sharples, chief executive of AKL, said that the clinical trial and Professor Edwards’ research on APPA’s novel modes of action should provide the “robust evidence” necessary to help bring the drug to market.