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Royal launch for arthritis research centre

24 September 2009

His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester (left) with Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant (right)His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester (left) with Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant (right)

His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester met researchers, arthritis sufferers, clinicians and local fundraisers when he officially opened a major new research centre at the University.

The Arthritis Research Campaign Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre is dedicated to world-leading interdisciplinary research to tackle arthritis. It brings together experts in a number of different research fields to advance understanding of arthritis and generate new treatments.

More than eight million people in the UK are affected by arthritis and the condition is a major cause of disability. Sufferers experience stiff, painful and inflamed joints, for which there is no treatment other than symptom relief, and ultimately joint replacement.

The Centre is funded by £2.5M from The Arthritis Research Campaign over five years and £7.5M from the University. Engineers, biomedical scientists and medical experts including orthopaedic surgeons, rheumatologists and physiotherapists will drive research at the Centre. The aim is to translate their work directly to patient benefit in a ‘molecule to man’ approach.

Professor Vic Duance, of the University’s School of Biosciences and Director of the new Centre said: "We certainly hope to be able to develop much better treatments. At the moment the only effective treatment for severe osteoarthritis is joint replacement, but we are now looking to find other ways of treating patients earlier to slow down disease progression, so delaying the need for joint replacement."

Professor Vic Duance, Director of the CentreProfessor Vic Duance, Director of the Centre

Pain is a major factor in arthritis and an exciting new aspect of the research is to relate molecular changes in the joint to pain and inflammation, to show how overworked joints are linked to pain and disease development. This new information will help the team to devise and develop improved treatments such as better drugs and physical therapies.

Although the aim is to offer new treatments that delay the requirement for joint replacement surgery, in the short term the team also hope to improve the lifespan and quality of existing joint replacements by developing new coatings and materials.

Medical director of The Arthritis Research Campaign Professor Alan Silman said:

"Artificial hip and knee joint replacement has transformed the lives of millions of sufferers over the past four decades. The challenge now is to build on that success and identify novel alternatives to surgery as well as improving the short and long-term outcome of those who need an operation.

"Cardiff has all the individual building blocks to achieve these goals and in a unique national endeavour our investment will bring these groups together, encouraging scientists to focus their attention on these major issues for the benefit of people with arthritis."

Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant said: "That the Arthritis Research Campaign selected Cardiff to establish a national centre of excellence is testament to the world-leading academic expertise and state-of-the-art facilities at each of the academic Schools and Imaging Centres involved in the bid.

"It is one of the largest, broadest interdisciplinary projects in this University to date, and will greatly advance our understanding and treatment of this common condition, putting Cardiff, Wales and the UK at the forefront of research into arthritis."

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: "I am delighted that the Arthritis Research Campaign chose a Welsh university to base their new centre. Thanks to the decision to locate the research unit at Cardiff, Wales will be leading the world in research into tackling Arthritis and generating new treatments. It is a real feather in the cap for Welsh science."

The Arthritis Research Campaign Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre involves six of the University’s Schools: Biosciences, Engineering, Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Healthcare Studies plus the University’s three Imaging Centres - Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre; The Experimental MRI Centre; and the Wales Research & Diagnostic Positron & Emission Tomography Imaging Centre. Cardiff and Vale Health NHS Trust and academics from the University of Exeter and Queen’s University, Belfast, are also involved.

The grant has enabled ten new research posts to be established, plus the infrastructure to coordinate the research programme, and will also help establish new state of the art biomechanical testing and imaging facilities.

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