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Our research focuses on all aspects of osteoarthritis, from understanding its causes to developing new treatments for the condition to improve people's quality of life.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent joint disease yet it is still very poorly understood. 

Although once considered a disease of attrition of the articular surfaces, data that have emerged over the past few years have identified articular cartilage breakdown by two important pathogenic proteases – Adamts5 and Mmp13.

In mice, we have demonstrated that induction of proteases is highly mechanosensitive as disease can be prevented, and proteases suppressed, if the joint is immobilised after disease is induced (by surgical joint destabilisation).

The cells of the joint use a variety of methods by which they sense and respond to mechanical disruption. Some of these methods involve release of growth factors that are stored in the pericellular matrix of cartilage and are released in response to mechanical injury. These growth factors include FGF2, TGFb and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF). Their release does not drive protease induction but more likely drives beneficial responses within the damaged tissue perhaps attempting to drive cartilage regeneration and repair.

The mechanosensitive pathway(s) that drive pathogenic responses in the joint are currently unknown and their identification is paramount.

OA Centre

In 2013 we were awarded a Centre of Excellence for OA Pathogenesis research by Versus Arthritis. This award, with matched funding from Oxford University, has created a cross-disciplinary yet cohesive, vibrant group of individuals working in and around the area of OA. A further five years funding was awarded by Versus Arthritis in 2018. The Centre has strong links with the Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and OA, and other Centres around the UK.


  • Can chondroprotective pathways in cartilage be harnessed to improve disease in patients with established OA?
  • Why does pain develop in OA; what are the key pathways and in which tissues does it originate?
  • What is the mechanism by which molecules bound into the pericellular matrix are released upon mechanical loading/injury and is this modulated in age and disease?
  • Can articular cartilage repair and what are the pathways that drive this?
  • Can the early injury response in the joint help us to predict which patients will develop OA following joint injury?
  • Can we develop novel biomarkers of superficial cartilage injury in early disease that could be used in individuals with subclinical disease?

Related research themes