PROFESSOR TONIA VINCENT, AR UK SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW
Over recent years it has become apparent that osteoarthritis (OA) is not simply a disease of ‘wear and tear’ as a result of repeated attrition of joint tissues over time, but is a process driven by the activation of specific enzymes that are responsible for cartilage breakdown. When cartilage breakdown has been studied in a test tube these enzymes can be activated by known inflammatory molecules such as IL1. IL1 signals to cells using another protein called MyD88. Lack of MyD88 makes cells non-responsive to IL1 and also non-responsive to a number of other related mediators that utilize this pathway. We have observed that deficiency of MyD88 prevents the development of OA. We have screened several of the molecules that utilize MyD88 and have now identified a new inflammatory mediator, which we believe is responsible for driving OA.
Our identified molecule is elevated in the synovial fluid of patients who have sustained a recent traumatic knee injury. These individuals have a 50% risk of developing OA within 5-10 years. This fellowship will test that hypothesis that levels of the inflammatory molecule in the synovial fluid early following joint injury are able to predict those at highest risk of developing OA and those for whom disease might be prevented by blockade of this molecule.