The University of Liverpool, in partnership with AKL Research and Development, will lead a clinical trial testing the potential of a new therapy for osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of arthritis in the UK that affects more than eight million people.
According to researchers, in animal tests APPA - a proprietary combination of two synthetic molecules apocynin and paeonol - has already demonstrated significant pain relief from OA, improved functionality and the slowing of cartilage destruction.
The first study using human volunteers is now due to start shortly at the Liverpool Clinical Trials Unit (LCTU), under the direction of rheumatologist Professor Robert Moots from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease.
"The severe pain from OA is usually managed with prescription drugs that are often not effective and that also, in many cases, induce unacceptable side effects. In many cases, major joint replacement surgery is needed to help deal with the pain. This is surely wrong," commented Prof Moots.
"This drug has huge potential to provide an effective treatment for OA. A reliable and easy way to treat OA has clear potential to save large amounts of money for the NHS and greatly improve the lifestyle and health of patients".
Also commenting on the drug's promise, Professor Steven Edwards at the University's Institute of Integrative Biology, said there is "considerable evidence" to show that neutrophils are activated in inflammatory diseases, but they are also essential in protecting us from infections.
"The 'holy grail' of anti-inflammatory targeting of neutrophils is specifically to block their tissue-damaging activities, but not compromise their ability to protect us. Work is ongoing but to date it appears that APPA does not target the host defence properties of neutrophils but does block their pro-inflammatory activities," he noted.
David Sharples, AKL's chief executive, said: "There remains a high unmet need for an effective, well tolerated OA drug, so understandably we are very excited by APPA's prospects".