Masonic Charitable Foundation awards grant to microbiome research

19:00 EST 26 Feb 2017 | Arthritis Research UK

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The Masonic Charitable Foundation has awarded £90,000 over three years to Arthritis Research UK, to support research into the role of the microbiome in rheumatoid arthritis.

The grant will support Dr Frances Williams at King’s College London, to explore whether the mix of bacteria in and on our bodies (known as the microbiome) drives rheumatoid arthritis, or whether changes in these bacteria are a consequence of the disease or the drugs used to treat it.

The research

Around 400,000 people in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis but the best drugs available do not work for everyone. We know that the microbiome in people with rheumatoid arthritis differs from the microbiome in healthy people. Dr Williams and her team are exploring these differences by studying pairs of twins from the TwinsUK cohort, the largest adult twin registry in the UK. By studying genetically identical twins where one twin has rheumatoid arthritis and the other does not, they can gain valuable information about the environmental causes of disease.

The microbiome may also be linked to the way in which people with rheumatoid arthritis respond to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate. By investigating the links between the microbiome, genetic factors and DMARD responsiveness in rheumatoid arthritis, the research team aims to understand the reasons why people develop this condition.

“We are delighted the Masonic Charitable Foundation has decided to support Dr Frances Williams’s research into the microbiome and its role in rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research and programmes at Arthritis Research UK.

“The microbiome is at the frontier of medical research and is increasingly recognised as influencing health and disease.

“We have made a significant investment in this area totalling nearly £5 million; by taking a leading role in funding internationally competitive research in this area, we expect to shed light on the vital interplay between the microbiome and inflammatory arthritis, which could lead to major advancements in the way we treat and prevent this condition in the future.

“The potential prizes from this exciting and ambitious research are huge, but it is expensive to support. Gifts from funders such as the Masonic Charitable Foundation are enormously important in helping us ensure the research takes place.”

David Innes, chief executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation said:

“We’re very pleased to be able to help Arthritis Research UK. Rheumatoid arthritis has a serious impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in this country alone. This hugely important research may well lead to the development of better and more effective treatments that could transform the lives of those with this condition.”

Patient benefit

By increasing understanding of the patterns of different microbiomes, Dr Williams’s research could improve treatment and lead to more personalised care. Looking at different microbiome patterns may enable doctors to predict responses to treatment and identify individuals most at risk of severe symptoms, both of which could be used to guide future treatment. Her research may also enable the development of new treatments which can alter the microbiome of an individual to improve their responsiveness to DMARDs.

Masonic Charitable Foundation

The Masonic Charitable Foundation is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country and is funded entirely through the generosity of Freemasons and their families. It gives significant financial support to individuals and families for daily living costs and also awards millions of pounds each year to local and national charities helping vulnerable people, advancing medical research and providing opportunities for young people. The Foundation also supports hospices, air ambulances and worldwide appeals for disaster relief. 

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