A team of scientists at the University of Manchester is hopeful that a research project could lead to an effective new treatment for the millions of people in the UK who suffer from osteoarthritis.
The team at the School of Biological Science believe they can slow down or possibly even prevent the development of osteoarthritis by developing a targeted gene therapy over the next five years.
If their approach is successful, it could lead to clinical trials on patients within the next decade. The team's work is being funded by a five-year grant of almost £685,000 from medical research charity the Arthritis Research Campaign.
Around two million people in the UK have osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. The number of people with the condition is rising as the population's age and weight increase.
"We're very optimistic. We've been working towards this for about 10 years now, and we're at the point where we can talk about developing a treatment," said Gillian Wallis, a senior lecturer in medicine, who, together with Ray Boot-Hanford, a reader in molecular biology, is leading the research programme
"We are still very much at the research stage, but if all our laboratory experiments work out then we hope to translate the results directly into clinical practice. We would hope to be looking at clinical trials on patients within 10 years," she added.
The only currently available treatments for osteoarthritis are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that alleviate symptoms but do not stop the progress of the disease.
But many patients cannot tolerate these drugs because of side effects.