Improving understanding of how stem cells can form, organise and repair joint tissues

Disease - Osteoarthritis

Lead applicant - Professor Cosimo De Bari

Organisation - University of Aberdeen

Type of grant - Invited Research Award

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £327,873.60

Start date - 1 June 2018

Reference - 21800

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Stem cells are a unique type of cell which can be thought of as the body's repair kit because they can self-renew and they have the ability to become any type of cell. In osteoarthritis, stem cells present in the joint fail to repair cartilage effectively. Therefore, a potential treatment option for osteoarthritis is the development of drugs that control the function of these stem cells to preserve or restore healthy joints. This relies on a better understanding of stem cells in joint health and disease. This project therefore aims to improve knowledge of how stem cells can form, organise and repair joint tissues.

Why is this research important?

The joint lining, which is called the synovium, contains special stem cells. It is thought that in their DNA these stem cells have memory of how to form a joint, originating from when the joint was formed in an embryo in the womb. Improved understanding of this memory could be used to prevent or repair joint damage in osteoarthritis.

The researchers will look at which specific stem cells in the joint lining in humans are able to form a new joint when injected into mice. The researchers will also use cells from the developing knee joints of human and mouse embryos. They will look at the DNA of these cells, in order to understand how healthy stem cells are able to form new joint and cartilage, and whether this information originates from the embryo.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Better treatments are needed for people with osteoarthritis. An understanding of how stem cells from the joint lining can organise the process of joint formation will be critical. This insight could help the researchers to use these cells to prevent or repair joint damage in osteoarthritis.