BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Saturday, 24 August, 2002, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Probe into arthritis pain
Mike Atherton
Mike Atherton suffers from ankylosing spondylitis
Since the age of just ten Jonathan Nicholson has suffered aches and pains throughout his body.

Throughout his twenties and thirties his mobility gradually declined.

Mr Nicholson, aged 45, suffers from a crippling form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which is also known as "Poker Back".

In extreme cases the condition, which affects about 100,000 people in the UK, including comedian Lee Hurst, golfer Ian Woosnam and cricketer Mike Atherton, can lead to irreversible loss of movement.


It is not going to help our generation, or even the ones in their 20s because once you have lost the movement you have lost the movement

Jonathan Nicholson

Cure hope

It is a hereditary back condition which causes progressive stiffening of the spine, and which, if left untreated, can cripple sufferers.

Other joints such as the hips, shoulders, knees, or ankles can also be affected.

There is currently no cure for the condition.

It mainly affects younger men and by the time they reach their sixties some are unable to walk properly.

Dr Adam Benham, a lecturer at the University of Durham's department of biological sciences, has been given a three-year 118,618 grant from the Arthritis Research Campaign to research the causes of AS.

There is a strong genetic element to developing AS, with 96% of sufferers having a gene called HLA-B27.

He said: "This project is designed to answer an important longstanding question about arthritis - why does HLA-B27 predispose so many people to ankylosing spondylitis?

"Once these details are understood, drugs that would prevent HLA-B27 contributing to ankylosing spondylitis could be developed."

Exercise

Mr Nicholson said that while the findings would come too late to help people of his age group, they could be used to prevent future generations suffering.

"It is not going to help our generation, or even the ones in their 20s because once you have lost the movement you have lost the movement.

"I would have liked to have been given a new hip, but they told me there was no point, because the movement would be lost in that too," he said.

Mr Nicholson said the only hope for people like himself was to keep moving and exercising to retain all the possible flexibility.

Research

A spokeswoman for the Arthritis Research Campaign (arc) said: "Ankylosing spondylitis is little-known but very painful condition which we take very seriously. We're currently spending well over 2m on research to try to establish its genetic basis, and find out why it occurs.

"A recent trial in the US showed that the new anti-TNF therapies used for severe rheumatoid arthritis brought relief to patients with AS too, so that's great news for the 100,000 sufferers in the UK.

"It will hopefully only be a matter of time before these new drugs gain a licence for use in AS in this country."

See also:

07 Jun 99 | Medical notes
22 Mar 02 | Health
03 Jul 00 | Health
23 Nov 01 | Health
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes