About our research

This group hosts the EULAR Centre of Excellence for Rheumatology Research 2015-2020 and the UK Behçet’s Syndrome Centre of Excellence. It is also part of the MRC/ARUK Centre for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing and MRC/ARUK Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work.

The rheumatology group undertakes translational clinical, laboratory and epidemiological research into rheumatic diseases, with a focus on inflammatory conditions. Rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases are extremely common conditions representing up to 30% of all consultations in primary care, are a major cause of morbidity and frequently associated with significant comorbidity, further impacting on wellbeing and function.

Large cohorts of well-characterised patients, with clinical care led by members of the group, are available at Aintree University Hospital. These include rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, myositis, systemic sclerosis and Behçet’s syndrome. Research integrates seamlessly with clinical care; of which much is delivered from the context of national or supra-regional services.


The rheumatology group undertakes programmes of work designed to:

1)      Understand the disease process underlying RA and Behçet’s syndrome, by studying the role of neutrophils at the cellular and molecular level in disease (MRC/Wellcome Trust/Industry/ARUK funding).

2)      Discover and evaluate biomarkers to predict response to biologic drugs in RA and Behçet’s Syndrome, with the aim of developing a personalised medicines approach to treatment (MRC/ARUK/Industry funding)

3)      Elucidate the potential interaction between arthritis, co-morbidities (such as cardiovascular disease) on disease, response to treatment and other important outcomes such as work  (MRC/ARUK funding)

4)      Explore the pathophysiology of muscle and inflammatory lung disease, with a particular interest in the association of autoantibodies with clinical sub-type and outcome

5)      Study pathophysiological aspects of connective tissue diseases such as systemic sclerosis.

6)      Study the effect of lifestyle factors (obesity and smoking) on disease activity and treatment response in inflammatory rheumatic disease.

7)      Evaluate the clinical utility and potential mechanisms of action of novel drugs for osteoarthritis


Location and Facilities

The rheumatology group is based in the Clinical Sciences Centre at Aintree University Hospital, but also has activity in the William Henry Duncan Building on the University's main campus.

The Clinical Sciences Centre has laboratory and clinical research facilities under the same roof, on the site of a large hospital that provides care for well characterised cohorts of patients with rheumatological disorders, under the care of leaders of the group. Patients are referred not only from the locality, but also around the region and nationally.

The laboratories support molecular immunology work, including primary and secondary cell culture, cell and tissue storage, flow cytometry and various PCR technologies. The clinical research suite provides facilities for clinical assessment, including joint aspiration and injection, together with phlebotomy on both healthy people and patients.