Musculoskeletal disease and inflammation medicine
Musculoskeletal disease is a major burden on society and healthcare worldwide. The symptoms of musculoskeletal disease, including joint pain and stiffness, and fatigue are leading causes of reduced quality of life and a significant cause of lost work productivity and early retirement.
What we cover in this theme
Researchers in this theme are experts in diseases of the musculoskeletal system characterized by unwanted inflammation.
We have established a world-leading research programmes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and primary Sjogren’s syndrome (PSS). Both RA and PSS are exemplars of the so-called immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs), in which the immune system promotes unwanted inflammation. IMIDs often occur alongside other chronic diseases, and are a major barrier to healthy ageing and a leading cause of health-related disability.
RA causes painful swelling and damage to the joints. PSS causes distressing dryness of the mouth and eyes, resulting from inflammation and damage to glands that make saliva and tears. Profound fatigue is also common in diseases of chronic inflammation.
Our strategy addresses three priority research areas for IMIDs generally:
- Prediction and prevention. We will extend our understanding of the biological ‘triggers’ that lead to the initiation of unwanted chronic inflammation, and how to screen for them in the general population before they cause damage. An ability to do so will be a major step towards preventing chronic disease.
- Inflammation. Even though people diagnosed with a particular disease often have a common set of symptoms and features, the underlying biology may vary greatly. The same inflammatory pathways may contribute to more than one disease. This may explain why a given treatment can be used to treat more than one condition, yet is not effective for everyone with the same diagnosis. Re-visiting traditional disease classification with a better understanding of underlying biology will enable more personalised treatment strategies rather than the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that has not served IMID patients well until now.
- Fatigue. Fatigue is a complex phenomenon and a huge burden to people with IMIDs but little is known about the underlying biology and effective treatment is not yet available. We will prioritise investigation into the biology of fatigue, explore new ways to measure it and develop new approaches to manage the symptom.
How we carry out research
By integrating our research activity with everyday NHS service, we are well placed to address those questions that are most important to patients and doctors alike. And by working closely with colleagues across BRC themes, we are committed to deploying the research databases and infrastructure we have developed over many years, alongside state-of-the-art laboratory and digital technologies at our disposal in Newcastle, for the benefit of IMID patients more broadly.
We bring together world-renowned clinical academics with broad expertise across a range of areas, who carry out experimental medicine projects in the field of immunotherapy.
Our research combines state-of-the-art technology with extensively characterised patient cohorts (including the UK primary Sjogren’s syndrome registry and the North East Early Arthritis Cohort). These partnerships deliver a comprehensive research portfolio, spanning from basic laboratory science through to first-in-man experimental medicine clinical trials.
Who we work with
We work closely with the Musculoskeletal Services at Newcastle Hospitals, whose rheumatology service is recognised as a European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR) Centre of Excellence.
The Patient and public Involvement and engagement in Musculoskeletal reSearch (PIMS) group is a group of patients and members of the public. They work with experts at Newcastle University who carry out musculoskeletal research.
We have developed close collaborations with academic and industrial partners to enrich scope and impact, including:
- Research into Inflammatory Arthritis Centre – Versus Arthritis
- Medical Research Council Versus Arthritis Centre for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing
- Stratification of Patients using advanced Integrative modelling of Data Routinely acquired for diagnosing Rheumatic complaints
- The NECESSITY Project (NEw Clinical Endpoints in primary Sjogren’s Syndrome an Interventional Trial based on stratifYing patients)
Our work with patients helps to influence the work we do. We do this through our vibrant involvement and engagement programmes, and links with local research infrastructure, such as:
- NIHR Newcastle Clinical Research Facility
- NIHR Research Design Service
- Newcastle Clinical Trials Unit
- Newcastle Advanced Therapies Facility
- Newcastle University core scientific facilities
- Bioinformatics Support Unit
- Newcastle Biobank