Osteoarthritis researchers at NUI Galway are part of a new European project which is looking to incorporate the views of patients and the general public at the earliest stages of research.
As part of the EU-funded GAMBA project, the University is looking for osteoarthritis patients who would like to learn about new therapy approaches and are willing to evaluate theses approaches from a patient’s point of view. The patients should be resident in Galway, be at least 18 years old, and be available for four days in March 2012.
The views of the general public will be sought in early summer.
Osteoarthritis is a very common joint disease, which can impact quite severely on the quality of life of patients. At the age of 65 most people are affected, and women are more commonly affected than men. Symptoms such as restricted mobility and pain can be alleviated and the progression of the disease can be slowed, but up to now it is not possible to heal the disease.
For the consultation project, based at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (REMEDI) at NUI Galway, the participants will be introduced to the topics of innovative basic research into osteoarthritis and – depending on interest – further background information on gene therapy, stem cell research and nanomedicine.
“We are really planning to engage with the people who arguably know most about arthritis, the sufferers. What is it that patients need and want? Will it be possible to regrow bones, to generate cartilage in the body and to stop joint inflammation effectively in 20 years time? What risks and ethical aspects are associated with such visions? These are just some of the questions we want to discuss”, said Dr Mary Murphy, REMEDI, NUI Galway.
Dr Murphy added: “Until now, the evaluation of the risks associated with new health technologies are normally left to the experts. New therapy approaches usually don’t come to the attention of patients and society until they are tested in clinical trials or once the products are launched on the market. However, NUI Galway is actively inviting those suffering from osteoarthritis and the general public to contact them, so share their own insights with scientific experts.”
All the sessions will be supported by a experienced team of moderators, who will ensure that the information supplied is comprehensible.
As part of the GAMBA project (Gene Activated Matrices for Bone and Cartilage Regeneration in Arthritis) researchers at REMEDI are involved in developing new methods for the treatment of osteoarthritis. In collaboration with nine partner institutions from Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland, researchers in REMEDI hope it might be possible to heal diseased joints in 10 to 20 years. This would be done by introducing a combination of biomaterials, stem cells harvested from the patient, gene vectors and nanoparticles directly into the diseased tissue.
“The hope is”, explains Dr Murphy, “that these enriched biomaterials could make a regeneration of the joints possible.”