How does communication between different cells in the joint cause inflammation?

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis

Lead applicant - Professor Andy Clark

Organisation - University of Birmingham

Type of grant - Invited Research Award

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £1,126,347.02

Start date - 1 March 2018

Reference - 21802

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

In rheumatoid arthritis, the joint lining commonly becomes inflamed, forming a thickened overgrown tissue. This tissue, known as pannus, causes joint damage and can spread disease to unaffected joints. There are two types of cells that are involved in the formation of pannus, known as fibroblasts (cells in connective tissue) and macrophages (white blood cells involved in many inflammatory diseases). The aim of this research is to understand how the communication between fibroblasts and macrophages causes inflammation.

Why is this research important?

In the past, scientists have mainly looked at the two types of cell involved in the formation of pannus (macrophages and fibroblasts) separately. However, the researchers propose that it is the combined actions of these two types of cell that results in the formation of pannus. This research will investigate how fibroblasts and macrophages communicate in inflammation, and influence each other’s metabolism (the chemical processes that take place in the cell to generate energy for the cell).

This work will bring together the expertise of researchers from many different specialities. The researchers will use special techniques to look at the metabolism of both macrophages and fibroblasts in tissue from patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, test tube experiments will look at the specific signs of inflammation of fibroblasts and macrophages, either alone or in combination. Finally, experiments will be carried out in mice to investigate new ideas about treating joint inflammation by changing cell metabolism.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Lots of promising drugs are being developed to treat cancer by targeting metabolism. Applying this knowledge to inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, could lead to the discovery of new treatment methods. In addition, this could allow the use of drugs which have already been developed for cancer, potentially meaning faster benefit for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.