9 may 2008

£3.75 million for University and NHS orthopaedic partnership

Arthritic hands
Arthritis sufferers are set to benefit from the new Biomedical Research Unit in Musculoskeletal Disease

A partnership between the University of Oxford and the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust has won major funding to take scientific breakthroughs out of the laboratory and into hospital clinics.

The University and the hospital has secured £3.75m over four years to boost research into developing treatments for chronic bone conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis and advances in joint replacement surgery.

The Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre was one of only three hospitals in the UK to be selected as a Biomedical Research Units (BMUs) in Musculoskeletal Disease. The new NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) Biomedical Research Unit based on the Headington hospital site will be at the forefront of a multi-million pound drive to prevent, diagnose and treat ill-health. It is part of a wider network of 12 BMUs looking at heart disease, nutrition, hearing problems and other conditions under the umbrella of the NIHR.

Musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis account for over half of the reasons for people not being able to go to work

Professor Andrew Carr

The NOC’s new status reinforces its international reputation at the forefront of research in its specialist field. The investment will fund cutting-edge work alongside the University such as using spider silk to repair and regenerate tissue.

Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery Andy Carr, who will become director of the new unit, said research would focus on improving surgical skills, joint replacements and ground-breaking work on re-growing cartilage and tendon, which could ultimately transform the lives of thousands of patients around the world. He said: 'Extraordinary numbers of people get pain because of musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis which accounts for over half of the reasons for people not being able to go to work.'

Disease prevention will be another key area of research. For example, researchers will be investigating giving pregnant women vitamin D supplements to increase bone strength of babies.

Dr Tony Berendt, the Trust’s medical director, said: 'The award recognises that our research into musculoskeletal disease and orthopaedic treatment measures up against international standards of excellence. What is special about the NOC is that there is real integration around the fundamental science of the bone and experienced clinicians who are able to apply new technology and methods in treating patients.'

The partnership has also been awarded £2m in capital funding for refurbishment and new equipment for the Botnar Research Centre on the hospital site.