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Funding boost to study genetic determinants of skeletal diseases

Posted November 4, 2013

Researchers from The University of Manchester have won £1.3million from the European Union to fund a five-year study which will help boost understanding of osteoarthritis and other diseases of the skeleton and inform future treatments.

The scientists, based in the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences, will take lessons learnt from studying less complex rare skeletal diseases, such as dwarfism, which involve one genetic mutation, and see how this knowledge can be harnessed to learn more about more common conditions like osteoarthritis which have a smaller and more complex genetic element.
Professor Ray Boot-Handford, from Manchester and part of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research who is leading the research, said: “Skeletal diseases like osteoarthritis present a major social, economic and health care challenge, which is set to rise as we all live longer.
“The concept behind this study is to study and integrate through modelling, the cellular and tissue effects of both common and rare skeletal diseases to gain a better understanding of how they work, how the disease progresses and age-related changes.”
“This will help us find markers, perhaps a blood or urine test like you currently have for diabetes, to show who suffers from early stages of these diseases and to help determine whether potential treatments are working.”
It is hoped in the long-term the research may help identify new treatments for people with rare skeletal diseases as well as common diseases such as osteoarthritis. The research focus will be on building predictive models based on all the changes in an affected tissue rather than changes in an individual genetic pathway.
The funding is part of a package of a £10million programme looking at systems biology for the functional validation of genetic determinants of skeletal diseases (known as SYBIL) involving seven European countries awarded as part of the EU’s FP7 Health Innovation 2013 grant. Research began last month.

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