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Relatives of patients hold the key to better understanding the cause of rheumatoid arthritis

Susan Moore

Researchers in Manchester have this week launched an innovative new project working with patients and their families to better understand the causes of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The study, the first of its kind in the UK, will provide vital clues to the early events in the process that leads to someone developing RA and help with prevention measures.

Researchers from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit, a partnership between Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and The University of Manchester, will collect data from patients' family members some of whom will be at increased risk of developing the condition themselves.

They aim to create a national database to examine and compare the lifestyle and genetic information in those people who go on to develop RA against those who remain free of the condition.  The study is part of a £4.5m Medical Research Council and Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry funded stratified medicine consortium in RA.

RA is a chronic disease which affects around 0.8% of the population.  It is a significant health burden for patients, who experience pain and reduced mobility, and costs the NHS an estimated £560 million per year.

Public involvement is key to the success of the study, which by recruiting 3000 first-line relatives of patients (i.e. parent, sibling or child), aims to help researchers better understand the causes of the disease.  The study is looking to recruit relatives, who are over the age of 30 years and who are not currently diagnosed with RA. Participants will be asked to answer a questionnaire about their family history and lifestyle, and to provide a blood sample.

This information will help to provide answers to some of the questions that researchers have around how we can move towards a preventative approach for people who are deemed as being at high risk, with a view to reducing the risk of those people being affected and requiring treatment.

Patients with RA have also been involved in the design of the study. Mrs Susan Moore, patient and Chair of the Arthritis Research UK Research User Group (RUG) explains that: "When I was first diagnosed with RA, as well as having questions about how it would impact my life, I wanted to know whether my daughters would be affected.  The answer to the question about why some family members develop the disease and others don't is currently unknown.  My hope is that this study will contribute towards susceptible people being protected from RA, so that they don't suffer the pain and lifestyle limitations that I do.  Being part of the RUG group has enabled me to better understand my condition and help shape the structure of the study, to make it practical for patients."

The study, launched during National Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week
(24-28 June), is being led by Professor Ian Bruce, NIHR Senior Investigator and Professor of Rheumatology at The University of Manchester and consultant at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  It builds on the team's previous discoveries, at the Arthritis Research UK Epidemiology Unit and the NIHR Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit, which link genetic and lifestyle factors to the onset of RA.

Professor Ian Bruce commented, "The information that this study provides will enable scientists to examine and compare the lifestyle and genetic information in those people who are diagnosed with RA themselves, against those who are not affected by the disease.  This will give us vital clues to the early events in the process that ends in someone developing RA and, importantly, how we may prevent this."

People wishing to participate in the study should contact the research office at: https://www.aruk.manchester.ac.uk/tacera_preventra/ or on 0161 275 5504.

For further information please contact:

Emma Smith, Marketing Manager - Research and Innovation Division, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

0161 701 2679 / 0782 514 2219

Emma.smith@cmft.nhs.uk

Lucy Prosser, Communications Officer - Research and Innovation Division, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

0161 701 0260 / 0782 514 2219

Lucy.prosser@cmft.nhs.uk

Alison Barbuti, Media Relations Officer - Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, The University of Manchester
0161 275 8383 / 07887 561 318
alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk