University of Liverpool: Developing a next-generation therapy for knee osteoarthritis

The University of Liverpool is part of a new international consortium project aiming to tackle the pressing need for effective and economical osteoarthritis treatments.

Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic joint disorder worldwide, but there is no efficient treatment so far. Therefore, new medications are needed to improve the quality of life for those affected and reduce the high costs associated with this disease.

Taking advantage of the explosion of RNA technologies in the last few years, the SINPAIN project aims to develop more personalised diagnostic and treatment options for different stages of osteoarthritis.

Bringing together specialists from twelve partner institutions based in Europe and the US, SINPAIN is supported by €5.3 million from the Horizon Europe programme over the next four and half years.

“Osteoarthritis patients depend on new treatments to alleviate chronic pain and slow disease progression. This degenerative disease is affecting an increasing number of people, who often endure a considerably reduced quality of life,” says project coordinator Dr Damien Dupin from the Spanish research organisation CIDETEC Nanomedicine. “There is a pressing and unmet global need, not only for effective therapeutic treatments, but also for understanding the causes and mechanisms of this disease and that’s where SINPAIN comes in.”

Once considered a purely mechanical disease, caused by cartilage wear, osteoarthritis is now seen as a complex biological response, connecting biomechanics, inflammation, and the immune system. SINPAIN is based on the understanding that there is an interplaying mechanism of symptoms.

Aiming to develop novel siRNA advanced therapy, the project will create models from biopsies of patients that allow a deep insight into knee osteoarthritis and will generate advanced siRNA-based products that help alleviate pain and slow down disease progression. The efficacy and safety of these nanotherapeutics will be validated in ex vivo and in vivo models that will be employed to elucidate biological mechanisms of the condition’s progression. Profiles of the patients will then allow machine-learning tools to deliver personalised therapies according to the individual disease stage.

The University of Liverpool’s role in the project will be to support the translation of the advanced therapeutics, and materials, by assessing their safety and immunological interactions.

Dr Neill Liptrott, Reader in Pharmacology and head of the Immunocompatibility Group at the University of Liverpool, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting, and ambitious, project. For many years now, we have been supporting the development, and translation, of advanced therapeutics through many national and international projects by determining possible adverse responses to new materials and approaches. Our role, as work package lead, in the project will be to identify, possible, unwanted immunological interactions of the materials developed in the project, in parallel with assessment of efficacy, to ensure a balance between the two. This project fits within a number of the University’s strategic aims, and with our broader portfolio of work, which includes the delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics.”

University of Liverpool