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Two scientists have won separate prestigious fellowship awards totalling nearly £1.3 million to investigate the role of the body clock in developing new arthritis treatments.
The scientists from The University of Manchester hope to find out more about the role of the 24-hour body clock in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is well known that symptoms of arthritis get worse at certain times of the day, so by studying the body clock it may be possible to improve treatments and pain relief.
Dr Qing-Jun Meng, in the Faculty of Life Sciences works on body clocks, ageing and osteoarthritis. He has been awarded an Arthritis Research UK senior research fellowship, worth more than £845,000. Dr Julie Gibbs, in the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, who focusses on body clocks and rheumatoid arthritis, has been awarded an Arthritis Research UK career development fellowship worth £434,000. Both fellowships are for five years.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms of joint disease, affecting millions of people in the UK. Current treatment options are limited and often inadequate.
Dr Meng’s recent work focuses on biological clocks and osteoarthritis, a painful joint condition characterised by progressive degeneration and loss of the articular cartilage. He and his team have discovered critical links between the 24 hour rhythms in cartilage and joint tissue.
With this new funding Dr Meng will take his research to the next level, using mouse models and patient samples to test the hypothesis that disruptions to the body clock increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis. He will also explore the possibilities of targeting body clock mechanisms to alleviate disease symptoms.
Dr Meng said: “I’m very pleased to receive this fantastic award, which will enable me to continue in this potentially very fruitful area of biomedical research. I believe this research will provide novel and medically relevant insights into one of the most common joint diseases that affect many older people.”'This research will provide novel insights into one of the most common joint diseases.'Dr Qing-Jun Meng
Dr Gibbs’ recent research highlights the body clock as a key regulator of inflammation. Within this programme of work, Dr Gibbs will focus on the inflammatory pathways critical to rheumatoid arthritis. She will first map out how the molecular clock regulates inflammatory process underlying this debilitating disease. This will highlight the potential for novel therapeutic targets enabling her team to test new treatment avenues for rheumatoid arthritis.
She says: “With this support from Arthritis Research UK I'm delighted to be able to continue my research to progress our knowledge of how the circadian clock regulates immune function, and to make significant advances in the field of rheumatoid arthritis.”
Both Dr Meng and Dr Gibbs have been working in the field of circadian biology for several years. Based at The University of Manchester they are part of one of the largest and most productive clock research communities in Europe. Having successfully collaborated on several projects, both researchers are determined to join forces, in order to tackle big and challenging research problems in the arthritis field. With their complementary research areas and skill sets, both awardees are poised to make a difference to the current understanding of, and the treatment for, arthritic joint diseases.
Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research and programmes at Arthritis Research UK, commented: “The role of our internal body clock in generating 24-hour rhythms in both our behaviour and the activity of the cells and organs in our bodies is an exciting area of research, particularly recent discoveries on its role on the immune system.
"Its effect on the development of two very different but common types of arthritis is worthy of further study, and we’re hopeful that these two fellowships will take us closer to much-needed, more effective treatments for people with these painful, debilitating conditions.”
Professor Ian Roberts, associate dean for research of the university’s faculty of life sciences, said: “We are delighted by the two recent prestigious fellowship awards to these two excellent young researchers. They reflect the quality of research on body clocks on going in both faculties and offer a real opportunity to answer important questions on body clocks and human disease.”
Professor David Ray, associate dean for research of the university’s faculty of medical and human sciences, said: “This double success highlights the rapid progress we are making in translating cutting edge science to address one of the major problems of our age, the limitations on life span, and quality of life due to joint disease.”
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