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$4.4M awarded for arthritis research


Toronto, ON November 17, 2003 – Three osteoarthritis (OA) research projects have received funding of C$4.4 million. The award was announced today by Dr Robin Poole and Dr Jane Aubin, scientific co-directors of the Canadian Arthritis Network, and Dr Cyril Frank, scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis.

The awards, co-funded by these organizations, will provide funding for five years under CIHR’s New Emerging Team Grants program, which was formally announced on October 6, 2003. Designed to support the creation and development of new health research teams that will lay the foundation for future successes in Canadian research, the NET program uses a competitive peer-review process to determine the grant recipients.

Dr John Esdaile, of the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada in Vancouver, will receive $1.5 million to develop tools to detect OA at an earlier stage than it is currently diagnosed. This will make early intervention possible which limits the consequences of the disease. The research team includes experts in diagnostic blood tests for OA, state-of-the-art X-ray scanners, treatment of OA and measurement of important aspects of the disease such as limitations on activities, costs, and psychological consequences.

Dr Gillian Hawker, of Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, will receive $1.4 million to look at the determinants and consequences of pain and fatigue in OA using a biopsychosocial approach. A multidisciplinary team of health researchers will explore the relationship of pain, fatigue, sleep and mental health in OA in relation to factors such as coping strategies, family support and the use of established treatments. The results will enable the development of new treatments, targeted to individuals in the context of their families and the community as a whole.

Dr James Henry, of the University of Western Ontario in London, will receive $1.5 million to look at the molecular mechanisms of pain and fatigue in OA in the nervous system and joints. The research will identify the chemicals that are altered in and around the joint at different stages of OA, which may generate the pain. The project will also determine the effects of chemicals released by peripheral nerve terminals on joint tissues. This work will help identify new targets to alleviate pain and prevent tissue destruction in OA.

The OA Net grants were developed in response to the outcome of a consensus conference on OA held in 2002, which defined future directions for research.