Childhood arthritis also know as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis or ‘JIA‘ is a chronic, potentially devastating disease which, if not well controlled, leads to pain, disability and loss of quality of life.
Children with arthritis take many medicines to help them return to a normal healthy life. Not all children respond well to medicines and many suffer side effects. Even when children respond, the arthritis can come back when medicines are stopped.
First starting in 2005 with the support of the Big Lottery Fund and then with funding directly from Sparks, a unique programme of research called CHARMS was established to investigate drug treatment in childhood arthritis.
The CHARMS project aims to create a more rational and personalised approach to treating children with JIA by finding ‘predictors’ – genes, cells or molecules – that tell clinicians if a child is likely to respond to a drug.
Additionally, the team also investigates children’s and their family’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in response to taking the arthritis medicine to understand their perspective and how this might affect the outcome of treatment.
The Sparks CHARMS is the largest multi dimensional study of response to treatment in childhood arthritis in the world to date. It has already recruited over 1000 children and has studied immune cells, molecules, genes and family/psychological factors to understand why some children get better on their medicines, but some do not.
The CHARMS project made a significant contribution to an international study that was published in the prestigious journal, Nature Genetics. The study highlighted that small changes in regions of DNA are associated with an increased susceptibility to juvenile arthritis.
CHARMS has already led to many tangible outputs (JIA website of families now being tested, a new biomarker test in clinic and the first ever genome wide study of response to a specific medication in childhood arthritis), as well as leading a new large consortium on childhood arthritis called CHART which has obtained prestigious MRC funding for the next 4 years.
Sparks is currently funding a follow on project led by Professor Wedderburn which is investigating the two proteins that may help predict which children will respond best to medication. The team are close to realising their ultimate goal of providing ‘personalised’ medicine for every child with JIA.
Sparks continues to fund vital research into children’s medical conditions. Find out more about our current projects or get involved in our fundraising events today.
- Institute of Child Health, University College London
- Childhood arthritis