Identifying the proteins that cause Dupuytren’s contracture

Disease - Dupuytren’s contracture

Lead applicant - Dr Elizabeth Laird (nee Canty)

Organisation - University of Liverpool

Type of grant - Invited Research Award

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £177,383

Start date - 1 May 2018

Reference - 21809

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Collagen is a protein that is essential to help hold the body together. However, having too much collagen can cause the body's tissues to stiffen and thicken. Dupuytren's contracture occurs when the tissues in the palm of the hand thicken, causing one or more of the fingers to contract and bend into the palm. This research aims to understand how the proteins found to be present in the thickened tissue in Dupuytren's contracture cause the excess production of collagen in this condition.

Why is this research important?

Previous research has found several key proteins called cytokines, to be present in samples of Dupuytren's tissue. In this project, the researchers want to understand if and how these proteins act to cause the excess production of collagen.

This study will obtain diseased and normal tissue from hand surgery donors and assess whole tissue samples as well as cells isolated from each tissue type. The researchers will compare the protein molecules present in all types of tissue. A sample of cells will be grown on a flat (2D) surface, such as a petri dish, and compared against donated tissue samples and cells grown in a 3D environment to form small ligaments and tendons. It is hoped that once understanding is improved, the researchers will be able to look at molecules that “turn off” these proteins, which may allow them to halt or reverse disease progression.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Currently, Dupuytren’s contracture can be treated using injections to break down the collagen or having surgery to remove the scarred tissue, however, these are not always successful as some of the collagen remains after injection and the condition often recurs in the patient after surgery. If this research is successful it could help lead towards further research that could provide a much-needed permanent treatment in an accessible, non-surgical form.