Next generation therapy for arthritis of the knee – a problem that usually gets worse

At last there is hope for a treatment for arthritis of the knee which, in the form of osteoarthritis, is often an ­intractable problem.

It inevitably gets worse with age and obesity because of wear and tear on this important weight-bearing joint. The cartilage on the bone surfaces gradually wears away until the bone is rubbing on bone, causing severe pain and disability.

This degenerative disease affects an increasing number of people who often endure a considerably reduced quality of life.

Now Liverpool University has joined the new international SIN Spain project which brings together specialists from 12 centres in Europe and the US and aims to tackle the pressing need for effective, economical osteoarthritis treatments.

“Osteoarthritis patients depend on new treatments to alleviate chronic pain and slow disease progression,” says project coordinator Dr Damien Dupin from Spain.

“There is a pressing and unmet global need, not only for effective therapeutic treatments, but also for understanding the causes and mechanisms of this disease and that’s where SIN Spain comes in.”

Once considered a mechanical disease, caused by cartilage wear, osteoarthritis is now seen as a complex condition connecting ­inflammation, the immune system and biomechanics. SIN Spain believes there’s an interplaying mechanism of symptoms.

Aiming to develop novel advanced treatments, the project will create models from biopsies of patients’ knees that give a deep understanding of knee osteoarthritis, and will come up with products to help alleviate pain and slow disease progression.

The efficacy and safety of these nanotherapeutics will be proven and they’ll be used to find out how osteoarthritis progresses.

Profiles of patients will be used by machine-learning tools to devise personalised treatments according to a patient’s disease stage, with Liverpool University’s role being the safety ­assurance of these advanced treatments.

Dr Neill Liptrott of the ­university said: “We are delighted to be a part of this exciting, and ambitious, project.

“For many years now, we have been supporting the development and translation of advanced therapeutics through many national and international projects by determining possible adverse responses to new materials and approaches.

“Our role will be to identify possible unwanted immunological interactions of the materials developed in the project, in parallel with assessment of efficacy, to ensure a balance between the two.

“This project fits within a number of the university’s strategic aims, and with our broader portfolio of work, which includes the delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics.”