How does oral inflammation promote rheumatoid arthritis?

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis

Lead applicant - Dr Joanne Konkel

Organisation - University of Manchester

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £143,024.98

Start date - 8 October 2018

Reference - 21927

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Periodontitis is a condition that results in inflammation of the gums. This condition has been found to occur more often in people with rheumatoid arthritis than in the general population. This suggests that long term oral inflammation can trigger rheumatoid arthritis. The aim of this research is to test whether the generation of inflammatory cells in periodontitis leads to disruption of the immune system, and therefore contributes to arthritis symptoms.

Why is this research important?

The link between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontitis has long been proposed; for example, previous studies have indicated that people with periodontitis are less responsive to rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and that the treatment of periodontitis can reduce rheumatoid arthritis severity. This research will aim to clarify the link between the two diseases, particularly how periodontitis promotes rheumatoid arthritis, in order to ultimately lead to the development of new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

It is known that Th17 cells, which help remove bacteria but also cause inflammation, are involved in the development of both periodontitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Large numbers of these cells are generated in the gums during the presence of periodontitis, therefore the researchers believe this could be how periodontitis leads to rheumatoid arthritis development. The characteristics of these cells will be examined in both rheumatoid arthritis and periodontitis, using both mice and samples from humans.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Uncovering the particular links between oral and joint inflammation will provide new knowledge of the biological systems that lead to the development of rheumatoid arthritis. This will support the development of new treatment options for preventing the disease. In particular, therapies for the mouth, including oral health and hygiene practices, are relatively straightforward but have the potential to decrease pain and inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis.