Does steroid production in patients with rheumatoid arthritis cause joint destruction, muscle wasting and bone loss?

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness

Lead applicant - Dr Rowan Hardy

Organisation - University of Birmingham

Type of grant - Career Development Fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £434,006.30

Start date - 1 June 2015

Reference - 20843

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes progressive damage of joints and wasting of muscle and bone. Links have been identified between these changes and excessive production of naturally occurring steroids within affected tissues. This research will explore how these steroids leads to disease through their influence on Wnt signaling, a mechanism by which cells communicate with each other. The researchers will then determine whether medicines that block production of these steroids are likely to be effective in RA patients.

Why is this research important?

Patients with RA develop problems such as muscle wasting and bone loss which contribute to an increased risk of fractures, disability and reduced life expectancy. Together, these consequences of RA are estimated to cost the NHS around £560 million per year. Any work which will lead to new treatments for this aspect of RA is therefore very important.

This research into the role of steroids on Wnt signaling will be conducted in bone, joint and muscle samples from both RA patients and healthy people. Mouse models of RA which closely resemble human disease will then be used to further examine the importance of steroid production and Wnt signaling in the symptoms of inflammatory disease, and to determine what happens when these steroid levels are altered.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease which can have a very negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Investigating the value of drugs that block steroid production which may prevent the harmful symptoms of inflammatory disease may lead to new treatments for this disease.