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UK researchers to work on innovative therapy for osteoarthritis

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The Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool is teaming up with global medical technology company Anika Therapeutics to develop a new stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis.

The partners have agreed to enter a three-year collaboration with the aim of developing an injectable mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy for treating the painful joint condition.

“Cellular therapy is already being used in some countries for osteoarthritis with some evidence that it transiently reduces pain,” explained Professor Anthony Hollander, chair of Stem Cell Biology at the university. “Our new approach to cellular therapy may provide a durable treatment for osteoarthritis.”

The collaboration with Anika will allow the university to accelerate any discoveries through to clinical and commercial development, Prof Hollander added.

Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition of the joints, affecting over 230 million people around the world and at least 8 million people in the UK.

It can affect any joint, but it occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back, neck, small joints of the fingers, and the bases of the thumb and big toe. In normal joints, cartilage covers the end of each bone and acts as a cushion between the bones. However, osteoarthritis causes this cartilage to break down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint.

Welcoming the new agreement, Dr Charles H. Sherwood, chief executive of Anika Therapeutics, said: “This research will consist of a novel product design and pre-clinical testing, that has the potential to produce an advanced therapy to treat the joint damage and pain caused by this debilitating condition.”