Dr. Richard Loeser, a rheumatologist and investigator who heads the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, has been awarded grants totaling $4 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for two osteoarthritis projects.
Dr. Richard Loeser, a rheumatologist and investigator who heads the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, has been awarded grants totaling $4 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for two projects focused on improving our understanding of the basic mechanisms responsible for cartilage destruction in people with osteoarthritis. These projects seek to discover new targets for therapies that will stop the production of inflammatory factors and enzymes that degrade cartilage in patients with osteoarthritis. The awards will fund the continuation of this research for an additional five years.
Part of the research focuses on improving scientists’ understanding of the signals within cells responsible for activating these destructive processes. The “Integrin Function in Cartilage” project explores how damage to the matrix surrounding cartilage cells (called chondrocytes) stimulates signals from cell receptors (called integrins), which then utilize reactive oxygen species (free radicals) to regulate the activity of the signalling pathways. The project includes a collaboration with Dr. Cathy Carlson at the University of Minnesota.
A related project, named “Oxidative Stress and the Development of Osteoarthritis,” considers how an increase in the reactive oxygen species within cartilage cells during the aging process can alter signals that control cartilage breakdown and chondrocyte survival. This project includes a collaboration with investigators at Wake Forest School of Medicine, the University of Minnesota, and Rush Medical College.
“Osteoarthritis is the number one cause of disability among older adults,” said Dr. Loeser, Herman and Louise Smith Distinguished Professor in the division of rheumatology, allergy and immunology. “We are particularly pleased to have the opportunity to continue this research because at the current time we lack any treatment that can slow or stop the progression of this common condition that affects over 30 million Americans.”