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National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre
Our Research: Musculoskeletal

Connective tissue diseases

In the past 50 years only two drugs have been licensed for connective tissue disease. How can we better classify this group of diseases?

Connective tissue diseases cover a range of autoimmune diseases, including lupus and systemic sclerosis and inflammatory myopathies. Many of these diseases feature abnormal immune system activity, where the immune system attacks a range of different parts of the body, causing inflammation in tissues. This means they are often referred to as multisystem ‘connective tissue diseases’ (CTDs).

There is a need for a better understanding of these diseases, to help identify subsets based on shared causes or inflammation pathways that will allow earlier detection of complications.

Through our research we are:

  • Working with imaging and biomarkers to identify patient subsets of connective tissue diseases that share common inflammatory pathways so that we can better understand the process of disease development and plan newer targeted treatments
  • Using proteomic, molecular pathology and imaging biomarkers to predict response to biologic treatments and apply new statistical techniques to discover subsets who will respond particularly well to newer therapies in lupus
  • Developing tools that will help predict severe digital ischaemia (insufficient blood flow to a digit), in systemic sclerosis and study new treatment to prevent ulceration
  • Using fMRI and cognitive assessments to stratify key subsets of cognitive dysfunction (brain fog) in lupus and pilot a personalised approach to improve cognition