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Musculoskeletal Disease

Musculoskeletal disease is a major burden on society and healthcare worldwide. The symptoms of musculoskeletal disease, including joint/back pain, stiffness, and fatigue are leading causes of reduced quality of life and a significant cause of lost work productivity and early retirement.

Osteoarthritis is a major cause of disability, especially in our ageing population. Experts predict that it will affect 17 million people in the UK by 2030. Immune-mediated musculoskeletal inflammatory diseases affect individuals of all ages, and require prompt treatment with (often expensive and potentially toxic) medications to prevent irreversible joint and organ damage.

Newcastle has an outstanding reputation for excellence in Musculoskeletal research and innovation; through linking patient cohorts with world-class experimental medicine, laboratory science and training facilities

How we carry out musculoskeletal disease research

The theme is led by NIHR Newcastle BRC Deputy Director, Professor John Isaacs. Our work aims to improve our understanding of the molecular and immunological basis of musculoskeletal disease. We translate this knowledge to improve and develop existing and novel treatments and diagnostics for the benefit of patients and society.

We bring together world-renowned clinical academics with broad expertise across a range of areas, who carry out experimental medicine projects in the areas of immunotherapy and skeletal research.

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.

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:

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. Here we serve patients living locally and regionally at our Major Trauma Centre and specialist orthopaedic services.

The Newcastle early arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome cohorts exemplify our vision of a “virtuous cycle,”. Through this, we ensure that both high-quality patient care and innovative research are mutually enhancing. From this platform we have developed close collaborations with academic and industrial partners to enrich scope and impact. These are:

Through work like this, we have been successful in gaining major translational research grants over the past three years:

  • BIO-FLARE study (MRC £3.5m, CI: John Isaacs) – experimental medicine study to define the immunopathology of disease flare in rheumatoid arthritis
  • AuToDeCRA 2 study (Versus Arthritis £1.1, CI: John Isaacs) – phase IB/2A clinical trial of autologous tolerogenic dendritic cell therapy in inflammatory arthritis
  • TRAFIC study (MRC £1.2, CI: John Isaacs) – phase I study of the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor seliciclib as a novel treatment targeting synovial fibroblasts in refractory rheumatoid arthritis
  • IDEA-FAST (EU IMI, €42m, CI: Wan-Fai Ng) – experimental medicine study to identify digital endpoints for fatigue and sleep in immune-mediated inflammatory disease and neurodegenerative disease.
  • MCDS-Therapy, an EU-funded international clinical trial testing drug treatment for the rare bone disease MCDS (metaphyseal chondrodysplasia type Schmid), led by Newcastle University and The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

What we cover in this theme

Using state-of-the-art facilities, academic expertise and a strong connection to research-active patients and the public, we carry our research that seeks to discover more on:

  • Primary Sjogren’s syndrome (PSS)
  • Fatigue
  • Novel treatments for inflammatory arthritis
  • Understanding and predicting flare and drug-free remission in rheumatoid arthritis
  • Understanding the pathogenesis of giant cell (temporal) arteritis
  • Molecular phenotyping of early immune-mediated arthritis as a route to personalised management
  • Molecular genetics of osteoarthritis
  • Pathogenesis of rare skeletal diseases
  • Dissecting the molecular pathways underlying rare genetic skeletal conditions

Musculoskeletal Disease Projects