The MRC Versus Arthritis Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research has a major focus on human musculoskeletal ageing
Whilst animal models remain very useful for the elucidation of basic biological processes (e.g. identification of the existence of cellular elements and activities), these processes cannot be assumed to have the same roles or importance in humans, which differ in so many ways biologically from rodents. Without recognition of these important differences work involving rodents as models of human conditions will be less impactful and effective. If these differences are recognized, the strengths of work in animals in identifying basic biological mechanisms will facilitate faster scientific and clinical progress toward understanding the relevance of the basic science to human musculoskeletal health and disease progression.
Moreover, it is essential that information generated from large-scale observational studies that have employed relatively indirect measurements of musculoskeletal health status is followed up in volunteer intervention studies to define causes, effects, mechanisms and mitigating strategies to offset poor musculoskeletal health progression in humans. The Centre, therefore, focuses on delivering detailed intervention studies in humans to build on evidence from large-scale observational studies, so we are able to elucidate potential biological drivers and mechanisms of poor musculoskeletal health in human ageing and chronic disease progression, using hard endpoint measurements. In doing so, the Centre delivers rigorously controlled mechanistic and applied research that is more solutions-focused in order to identify feasible counter-measures to musculoskeletal ageing and disease in humans. From a population health perspective, an understanding of the mechanistic underpinnings is essential for the shaping of the public’s understanding, since it can provide unique insights into the causal nature of the musculoskeletal health issues related to ageing.