Vaccine developed to treat osteoarthritic pain | University of Oxford

Vaccine developed to treat osteoarthritic pain

12 March 2019

Researchers have developed a vaccine that blocks the effects of the main cause of pain in osteoarthritis (OA) - nerve growth factor (NGF) – in mice.

In a collaborative effort between the Jenner Institute and the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at the University of Oxford, with colleagues in the University of Bern, and the Latvian Biomedical Research & Study Centre, scientists have developed and tested a vaccine that could be used to treat chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis, by blocking the cause of the pain – NGF.

The researchers developed a virus-like particle vaccine that triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to block naturally-occurring NGF. The new vaccine was tested in mice that had signs of painful OA (uneven distribution of weight across the hind legs), and it was shown to visibly reverse these effects.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in humans and is estimated to cost between 1-2.5% of the GDP of developed countries through its debilitating effects. It also represents a substantial social problem because fewer than 25% of patients currently have adequate pain control for their condition, and long-term use of painkillers are well known to pose significant risks.

Professor Tonia Vincent of Oxford University’s Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, said: ‘This is the first successful vaccination to target pain in osteoarthritis, one of the biggest healthcare challenges of our generation’.

‘Whilst there are still safety issues that need to be considered before these types of approaches can be used in patients, we are reassured that this vaccine design allows us to control antibody levels and thus tailor treatment to individual cases according to need’.

Professor Martin Bachmann comments “I am happy to see the vaccine platform perform so well, and look forward to seeing the vaccine enter clinical testing in companion animals”.

Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Research at charity Versus Arthritis, which funded the research said: ‘We know that for the 10m people with arthritis, persistent pain is life changing. Too many people living with pain do not get effective relief from the treatments that are currently available, and that is why the development of more effective pain killers, with fewer side-effects, is vital for people living with arthritis.
‘Although at an early stage, this is highly innovative research and these results are very promising. We are proud to support research such as this, which aims to tackle this urgent problem and discover new ways to help people overcome pain.’

This research brought together Professor Bachmann’s group developing therapeutic vaccines for non-communicable diseases, with Professor Vincent’s group at the Versus Arthritis Centre for Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis.

For further information, please contact:
Chris McIntyre in the University of Oxford press office at christopher.mcintyre@admin.ox.ac.uk or on+44 (0)1865 270 046

Notes to editors:

The full paper, ‘Active immunization targeting Nerve Growth Factor attenuates chronic pain behavior in murine osteoarthritis,’ can be read in Annals of Rheumatic Disease, a British Medical Journal title.

The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology
The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology is a world-leading medical research centre where discovery research drives development of transformative therapies for chronic inflammatory and degenerative disease.
Directed by Professor Fiona Powrie FRS, the Kennedy Institute has more than 25 research groups working in the areas of immunity and microbiome, inflammation biology and tissue remodelling and regeneration. The Institute houses approximately 180 researchers, support staff and students representing more than 27 nationalities.
An overarching goal is to uncover key biological processes that promote health and provide understanding of how these pathways malfunction in disease. Investigators at the Institute take a multidisciplinary approach incorporating molecular and cellular biology with analysis of disease models and interrogation of patient tissue samples.

The Jenner Institute
The Jenner Institute was founded in November 2005 to develop innovative vaccines against major global diseases. Uniquely it focuses both on diseases of humans and livestock and tests new vaccine approaches in parallel in different species. A major theme is translational research involving the rapid early-stage development and assessment of new vaccines in clinical trials.
The Institute comprises the research activities of over 30 Jenner Investigators who head leading research groups spanning human and veterinary vaccine research and development. Together the Institute Investigators comprise one of the largest non-profit sector research and development activities in vaccinology.
The Institute is a partnership between the University of Oxford and The Pirbright Institute and is the successor to the former Edward Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research. The Institute is supported by the Jenner Vaccine Foundation, a UK registered charity and advised by the Jenner Institute Scientific Advisory Board.