Division of Musculoskeletal & Dermatological Sciences

Overview

Hand being examined by a medical professional

The Division of Musculoskeletal and Dermatological Sciences undertakes multidisciplinary research with projects ranging from basic science to clinical studies in the whole human.

Our work includes genetic and environmental epidemiology, experimental medicine, longitudinal studies and clinical trials.

Our research

Much of our research is internationally leading. We are partners in many European initiatives and many of our Principal Investigators lead international consortia.

Externally funded centres include:

Research areas

Epidemiology

The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology addresses clinically important questions in musculoskeletal disease that require a robust epidemiological approach.

Areas of focus include the occurrence and progression of disease, the effectiveness and safety of treatment, and the impact of disease and treatment on quality of life.

Genetics and genomics

By studying genetic, transcriptomic and epigenetic changes, the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Genetics and Genomics aims to find the genes that increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

They have developed methods to understand how these genetic changes regulate gene function using techniques such as Capture HiC, RNASeq, ATACSeq and ChIPSeq and are exploring how that results in disease.

Drug safety

The Division has a large programme of work studying the real-world safety of new and established treatments used in autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriasis and lupus. We follow principles of pharmacoepidemiology and use data from bespoke national cohorts (eg BSRBR-RA, BADBIR) as well as primary care population datasets (eg CPRD).

Predicting response to treatment

For many conditions, there are a number of treatment options available but not none work well in everyone. Often, it can take several months before deciding that a drug is ineffective, during which time patients have continuing disease activity. 

Ideally, we would be able to predict which patients will respond best to which drug. Predictive factors may be genetic, environmental, epigenetic, proteomic or psychological (for example, relating to beliefs about medicines). We have programmes of work exploring all of these factors.

Connective tissue diseases

We have a number of programmes focusing on the pathogenesis and clinical outcomes of individual CTDs including systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis and inflammatory myopathies, as well as studies across CTDs to identify common aetiopathogenic subsets.

We lead a number of national and international collaborative studies in CTD research and have funding from MRC/NIHR/ARUK as well as Lupus UK and Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that restricts the daily lives of individuals due to pain and a lack of functional independence. Our research focuses on testing the effectiveness of new drug and non-drug treatments for Osteoarthritis (OA), and also developing novel and more efficient methods for the testing of these therapies.

Psoriasis

Our psoriasis research programme is one of the most comprehensive in the world. Fully integrated with our clinical department, we apply cutting-edge investigative techniques and technologies to address questions arising from direct patient care.

UK and international funding from MRC/Wellcome Trust/NIHR/Industry supports innovative immunological/ genetic and therapeutic investigations into psoriasis.

Photomedicine

We undertake translational research into the beneficial and hazardous impacts of sunlight on human skin, including vitamin D production, photosensitivity conditions, and skin cancer; prevention and treatment of sunlight’s harmful effects through development of systemic, dietary and topical photoprotective agents; and harnessing of ultraviolet and visible radiation in phototherapy/photodynamic therapy of skin disorders.

The brain-skin axis

The brain-skin unit is world leading in furthering an understanding of the psychosocial impact of skin disease and how psychosocial factors (e.g. stressful life events) may trigger and/or exacerbate inflammatory skin disease. The multidisciplinary team including dermatologists, psychologists, immunologists and neuroscientists uses diverse techniques, including functional MRI, to investigate the brain-skin connection.

Funding is received from the MRC, Psoriasis Association, Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance and industry.

Hair biology

Our research focuses on the biology and pathology of the human hair follicle as a highly instructive, clinically relevant model system for studying many of the most fundamental problems in biomedicine. For example, we dissect the controls that govern hair follicle growth, pigmentation and remodelling, explore new avenues for its pharmacological and cosmeceutical manipulation, and investigate hair follicle stem cells, immunology, neuroendocrinology, damage responses and repair.

Skin ageing

Ageing occurs in all tissues and organs as the result of the passage of time; skin is special because, as well as displaying these intrinsic changes, it also interacts with our environment and so is subject to the combined effects of intrinsic and extrinsic ageing. Chronic exposure sunlight is the major environmental effector of skin ageing and impacts the prevalence of skin cancers and appearance.

Our fundamental research looks to examine the mechanisms which underpin skin-related functional changes and the development of enabling technologies to mitigate the effect of ageing in skin.

Microbiome

There are ten times as many microorganisms living in and on us as there are human cells and it is increasingly clear that host–microbial interactions have a profound influence on health. Indeed, we already know that the microbiome regulates functions of the immune system and is thought to play a critical role in the development of disease.

Using next generation sequencing techniques, we are exploring the role of bacteria, fungi and viruses as risk factors for musculoskeletal and dermatological conditions.

Wound healing

Existing research has failed to identify optimal treatments that influence healing in chronic wounds. Lack of effective treatments arises from poor understanding of wound phenotypes/genotypes and factors, which impede, or promote healing. Our aim is identify these factors and develop a precision-medicine approach thus effectively improving chronic wounds management.

Cochrane group

The Division hosts the editorial base of the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group, which produces systematic reviews of interventions for the prevention and treatment of fractures and soft-tissue injuries. These reviews are published in the Cochrane Library.

Head of Division

Professor Anne Barton

Our researchers

View list of researchers within the Division

Contact

Linsey Nelson, Divisional Operations Manager
tel: (+44) 161 275 5037
email: linsey.nelson@manchester.ac.uk

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