New gene therapy research could help treat arthritis in horses – and humans *H&H Plus*

  • Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College believe the work could result in ‘ground-breaking treatment’ for degenerative joint disease in equines, other animals and humans. H&H finds out more...

    New research into gene therapy to treat arthritis that could potentially benefit both horses and humans is underway at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC).

    Scott Roberts has joined the RVC’s department of comparative biomedical sciences as a senior lecturer and has researched this area in his previous roles with University College London and UCB Pharma.

    This new gene therapy research will include horses at the RVC’s equine referral hospital as well as dogs and cats at the college’s Queen Mother Hospital for Animals. It is proposed that the treatment would then move into human clinical studies.

    “This research has the potential to change the way we approach degenerative joint disease and I am delighted to have access to the vaccinology and cell therapy hub [at the RVC] while we undertake this work,” said Dr Roberts, adding he is “optimistic about the future of this research”.

    “We hope this science will lead to a ground-breaking treatment for osteoarthritis in animals and eventually humans.”

    The research is important as cartilage has a poor capacity to repair itself, with cartilage injuries often progressing to arthritis. There is also currently no approved evidence-driven therapy for treatment.

    Ollie Crowe, a member of the British Equine Veterinary Association’s clinical practice committee, told H&H Dr Roberts’ arrival at the RVC adds to an already world-renowned orthopaedic research team.

    “[It also] highlights the importance that is increasingly applied to the philosophy of ‘One Health’,” he said.

    “One Health” is the global collaborative movement that recognises the links between animal and human health and works for the optimal benefit of both.

    “While it is very important to understand that the species differ dramatically in some ways, there are also enormous similarities, which allow progress for one to benefit all,” added Mr Crowe.

    “The nature of the group also emphasises the importance of large teams working together and collaboration between institutions, as research becomes ever more complex.

    “While stem cell therapy has been established in equine orthopaedics in a small way for several years and gene therapy was first attempted (with some success) in Colorado more than a decade ago, there is a growing body of evidence that these types of technology could become ‘game changers’ in terms of managing joint disease for us and our equine companions.

    “The prospect of horse and rider trotting up sounder for longer is an exciting one, which we may all have cause to thank the RVC for in future.”

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