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World’s first adolescent rheumatology research centre opens

The world’s first research centre dedicated to understanding how arthritis affects teenagers opens this month with a BRC-supported investigator leading the research agenda.

The £2.5 million Arthritis Research UK Centre for Adolescent Rheumatology is a collaboration between UCL, University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Its objective is to understand why rheumatic diseases can be more severe in teenagers and why specific types of arthritis are more likely to occur in this age group.

BRC-supported Dr John Ioannou, Principal Investigator for the Centre and a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in adolescent and adult rheumatology, said:

“At present, we really do not know which are best treatments, best tests or long-term outcomes in adolescents with arthritis or other rheumatic diseases.

“Up to now, research studies and clinical trials have focused on either adults or young children, with this key age group literally 'lost in transition'.

“Translational basic science and clinical research projects across the whole adolescent age spectrum that closely links into paediatric and adult rheumatology aim to bridge this research gap.”

Arthritis can impact on many aspects of life, including education, social life and work. Those who develop arthritis in childhood and adolescence often face educational difficulties that affect their employability in later life.

Professor David Isenberg, Professor of Rheumatology at University College London, said:

“As well as dealing with the challenges of being a teenager, young people with arthritis have to come to terms with having a disease that they may have to live with for the rest of their lives and affects every aspect of their life including appearance, education and job prospects.”

With the opening of the Centre it is hoped that the BRC-supported research carried out there will lead to better treatments for the 15,000 young people currently with the condition living in the UK.

Professor Lucy Wedderburn, Head of Rheumatology at the UCL Institute of Child Health and a Consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said:

“This is the world’s first centre dedicated to understanding the very specific needs of young people who are growing up with arthritis.

“By focusing our attention on understanding why and how arthritis is different in adolescence, and what happens as they enter adult life, we hope to dramatically improve treatment and care for young people living with this painful disease.”

Twelve staff from across the three participating institutions will make up the team at the centre, where work began on 1 October 2012 and with research due to start in early 2013.