Dr Chantal Chenu, Professor Andrew Pitsillides and Professor George Bou-Gharios (University of Liverpool) have been awarded a grant by Arthritis Research UK (ARUK) to study Semaphorin 3A / new target for controlling joint pain?
Around 10 million people in the UK are affected by joint pain, osteoarthritis (OA) representing the most frequent condition. Joint pain becomes more prevalent with the ageing population. Current management of joint diseases doesn’t meet patients’ needs in terms of providing adequate and sustained pain relief and this has major detrimental effect on their quality of life. Exercise and physical activity are often the sole remedies for the management of joint pain.
There is still a very poor understanding of the mechanisms that drive joint pain but in many skeletal diseases, pain is associated with pathological nerve ingrowth forming neuroma-like structures. What drives this nerve sprouting? Semaphorins are a family of signalling molecules that work as guidance cues for nerve growth. Our preliminary data have shown that one secreted member of this family, semaphorin-3A (sema-3A), which is osteoprotective and acts as a chemo-repellent for growth and sprouting of sensory neurons, is expressed in articular chondrocytes and is down-regulated in OA and by ageing. This project will test the hypothesis that a reduction of sema-3A expression in the joint leads to uncontrolled local nerve ingrowth and joint pain, which can be attenuated by sema-3A administration without exacerbating disease progression.