Medical research charity Arthritis Research UK has awarded researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of Nottingham a grant of £800,000 to develop new treatments for severe arthritis pain.
The research could be of benefit to the millions of people with arthritis around the world who experience disability and distress as a result of their pain.
Research teams at UCL and the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre at the University of Nottingham will use the funds for a four year study to look at the role of the proteins and molecules involved in causing severe pain in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Currently people experiencing pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are offered pain relieving drugs such as steroids or ibuprofen which work by blocking the disease inflammation. Although these drugs work well for people experiencing low level pain, they can have little impact for people experiencing severe pain.
The team, led jointly by Professor David Walsh, director of the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre at the University of Nottingham and Professor John Wood from UCL hope their findings may lead to the development of new drug treatments which are more effective in fighting arthritis pain.
Professor Wood said: "We know that many people with arthritis experience disabling pain every day, quite often brought on by carrying out simple activities such as walking or standing."
Professor Walsh added: "Pain remains the biggest issue for people with arthritis, even after they have been using currently available treatments to their best effect.
"We're looking at whether arthritis is less painful when specific molecules are missing that are known to convert mechanical stimuli (e.g., touch, pressure, etc.) to nervous impulses to give us mechanical sensation. We are seeing which of these molecules are present in the joints of people with either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
"From this we will be able to tell which specific molecule or molecules are mediating arthritis pain, so that we can develop and test drugs to those specific molecules as potential new treatments for arthritis. None of the painkillers that are currently available specifically block pain transmission in response to mechanical stimuli."
Medical director of Arthritis Research UK, Professor Alan Silman said: "Although pain varies from person to person, in some people it can have a considerable effect and a debilitating impact on their daily life. This piece of research offers us a better understanding of the pain caused by arthritis and is therefore a hugely exciting study."
Professor John Wood added: "We're delighted to receive this Arthritis Research UK grant to help increase our understanding of the exact role of the proteins and molecules involved in causing severe pain, which remain largely unknown."