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Researchers to investigate how bone size, shape and structure lead to arthritis and osteoporosis

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A UK-led study will look at how the size, shape and structure of bones and joints leads to common age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

The study, funded with a £1.6m Wellcome Trust award and using data from the UK Biobank, will include researchers from the University of Bristol, as well as Southampton, Manchester, Aberdeen, Cardiff and Queensland universities.

It’s hoped that the research will help to reduce the impact of these common musculoskeletal disorders by providing a basis for improved means of disease prediction, prevention and treatment.

Using a combination of scans and genetic data from around 100,000 men and women aged 40 to 69, the research team will explore how the size, shape and structure of hips, knees and spines contribute to the development of fractures, osteoarthritis and back pain.

The findings will then be used to develop novel strategies for identifying those at risk, slowing disease progression and treating those with established disease.

Study leader Jon Tobias, Professor of Rheumatology at Bristol Medical School, said: “The sheer scale of UK Biobank in terms of the number of participants involved and detailed amount of information collected represents a unique resource for the international research community. This study will help us to realise the potential of UK Biobank for understanding the causes of common diseases and reducing their impact on health, through investigation of the role of size, shape and structure of bones and joints in the development of common musculoskeletal conditions.”

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation. This study has been awarded one of its first Collaborative Awards in Science, which aim to promote the development of new ideas and speed the pace of discovery.