Using zebrafish to understand how and why osteoarthritis develops

Disease - Ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis

Lead applicant - Dr Chrissy Hammond

Organisation - University of Bristol

Type of grant - Senior Research Fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £937,090

Start date - 2 July 2018

Reference - 21937

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

This research group has pioneered the use of zebrafish for research into osteoarthritis and related conditions, because zebrafish have surprisingly similar genes to humans. The aims of this research are to use zebrafish to understand how the changes in genes seen in people with osteoarthritis leads to development of the condition.

Why is this research important?

Human genetic studies have revealed many genes that increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis, but so far, this knowledge hasn’t led to any major advances in treatments. This is because there is still limited knowledge of what role each gene plays. Using zebrafish allows researchers to test the effect of many different genes rapidly, which will help understand the effects of the genes on the skeleton, the immune system and the loading (force on weight-bearing joints) that comes from moving your joints.

These questions will be answered by changing genes in zebrafish, to the risk genes seen in people with osteoarthritis, then following the cell behaviour in the joints of living fish over time. This will allow a greater understanding of why these genes cause osteoarthritis and how they can be stopped or reversed. The research team will also work closely with pharmaceutical companies to work out how best to use zebrafish to test new treatments, and whether a more personalised approach can be used depending on which risk genes a person carries.

How will the findings benefit patients?

The findings of this project have the potential to uncover new treatments for osteoarthritis and in the long-term, bring huge benefits for people living with the condition. Working alongside the pharmaceutical industry will help find and progress new treatments, in potentially a personalised way, by looking into treatment options that could benefit the individual patient depending on their genes.