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Research funding boost for one of biggest health burdens

Press Release – University of Auckland

A spotlight is about to be shone on one of our biggest health burdens thanks to a funding boost. Research into tendons and their inability to heal once damaged is a neglected area in medical science compared to the amount of research done in other …Funding boost for research into one of our biggest health burdens

A spotlight is about to be shone on one of our biggest health burdens thanks to a funding boost.

Research into tendons and their inability to heal once damaged is a neglected area in medical science compared to the amount of research done in other fields.

But now the University of Auckland’s Dr David Musson has received the Auckland Medical Research Foundation (AMRF) Inaugural Senior Research Fellowship worth $600,000.

The Senior Research Fellow at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences will spend the next 5 years studying tendon damage (tendinopathy), a severe clinical problem, costing the NZ healthcare system in excess of $280M a year.

ACC data shows that tendon injuries and tendinopathy cost the country $200m in 2011, but leapt to over $280m in 2016, a cost increase of 39 per cent.

Dr Musson says the costs could rise to over half a billion dollars a year by 2030 if trends continue as tendon injury can hit people at virtually any age.

“There’s not really a lot of information out there about tendon problems and who it effects and how it effects them.”

“Kiwis are very active, New Zealand is a very active country, and people are becoming more active into their later years. And as people get older people suddenly decide they want to do an ironman or marathon at age 60.”

Once damaged, tendons never recover their original structural and functional integrity; instead, disorganised scar tissue forms, diminishing both biomechanics and function.

“It’s not going to be life or death, but it is fundamentally important for day-to-day health and activity, and maintaining a quality of life which allows the individual to retain a sense of self and independence.”

There are currently no successful therapies for treating tendinopathies, suggesting there is a clear unmet clinical need for new strategies that will improve the poor healing potential of tendons.

Dr Musson says he will focus on three key areas of research, the contribution of fat derived factors to poor tendon healing, the effect damaged tendon matrix has on tendon and immune cell behaviour, and the role of excessive levels of tendon matrix proteins in disrupted tendon healing.

“This research could also assist in treating the high number of tendon disorders affecting the Māori population, which according to ACC stats have increased 20 per cent from 2011 to 2016, a higher rate than the overall trend for ACC claims for tendon injuries in New Zealand which only increased 15 per cent over the same period.”
The average cost per claim to ACC is also higher in the Māori population compared to all other ethnicities, more than 10% higher than in the European population. It is hoped that this research will address this also.

Dr Musson is originally from the UK but has been researching this field since moving to New Zealand in 2011.

This latest funding success came as a shock though.

“I was really surprised and shocked. The longer that I hadn’t heard the outcome of the funding, my expectaions went down and down,” he says.

Then saw the emailed letter of aceptance from faculty Dean, Professor John Fraser, on his phone while at a workshop.

“I read the first line and then my eyes just blurred for the rest of it. Because the first line was ‘we are pleased to inform you’.” I was like, that means I’ve got it.”

He had to email his wife and ask her to check the email to make sure he had read it right.

To add to the excitement, he was at a student presentation and couldn’t say anything.

“I had this internal explosion of feeling but I had to sit there and be all serious because my student was up in front of the workshop giving a presentation.”

Professor Fraser says the grant continues the strong relationship between the AMRF and the faculty.

“This is a highly prestigious fellowship that has gone to a very deserving researcher. David won this from a large and very competitive field of applicants. I look forward to seeing the results in years to come.”

Dr Musson is mentored by the faculty’s Deputy Dean, Distinguished Professor Ian Reid.

“I am thrilled to see David’s success in this field continue to grow. I know his research will make a difference to many people in the long-term, I wish him all the best.”

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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