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$21.6 Million for Juvenile Arthritis and other Musculoskeletal Disorders

The Morrison Government is backing vital research to help Aussie kids suffering from painful chronic and congenital musculoskeletal disorders, with $21.6 million to improve diagnosis, treatment and care.

Funded through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), 11 research projects will receive funding, including two projects associated with Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA (AOWA).

Researchers at Curtin University will receive $1.4 million for myPAinhealTH, a digitally-enabled adaptive learning system to support quality care of young Australians living with chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. The current project aims to develop, implement, and evaluate myPATH, an adaptive learning system with Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities. This system will provide appropriate contemporary and personalised MSK pain care, that is rapidly accessible to young people living with chronic MSK pain. The potential positive impact of the project is massive at an individual level, service level and system level throughout WA and beyond. Ms Jennifer Persaud, Manager of Health Services, Education and Research Programs at AOWA is the organisation’s nominated Associate Investigator for the project, and Curtin University researchers, Professor Helen Slater and Professor Andrew Briggs, are the named Chief Investigators.

AOWA have particular expertise in consumer representation and engagement and are well positioned to support the project. Hence, AOWA will commit to supporting this project through the provision of strategic advice and through the following activities:

  • Supporting co-design of specific aspects to ensure the lived experience is reflected;
  • Supporting recruitment of research participants through AOWA’s extensive networks;
  • Supporting dissemination of research outcomes; and
  • Participating in advisory group to bring the perspective of an NGO/advocacy organisation across the three Pillars of proposed work.

Researchers at the University of Sydney will receive $2.4 million for their A3BC for Kids project, which will reduce the burden of juvenile arthritis through better biomarkers, use of machine learning and also wean children off drugs. This project will involve researchers from the Kolling Institute and the University of Sydney in collaboration with the Australian Paediatric Rheumatology Group. For the first time, researchers led by the Kolling Institute’s Dr Manasi Mittinty, will also investigate how children and their families navigate the mental health impact of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. This research will assess coping mechanisms, treatment responses and children’s well-being.

Kolling researcher and RNSH Head of Rheumatology Professor Lyn March said the centrepiece of the project, a large-scale clinical trial represents an important step towards improved care and more efficient use of medicines.

“Juvenile idiopathic arthritis affects over two million children worldwide. It is the most common chronic inflammatory musculoskeletal condition in children, and can lead to blindness and life-long disability,” she said.

Current treatments involve the use of disease modifying and biologic medications which target particular immune pathways. Professor March said these medications help, but they come with risks as they dampen the immune system, leaving some children vulnerable to infection, which can be very serious.

Researchers are excited to launch the project and begin work with the wealth of partners, including the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, Arthritis Australia, Musculoskeletal Australia, Juvenile Arthritis Foundation Australia, CLEARbridge Foundation, Dragon Claw, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Arthritis & Osteoporosis Western Australia, the Australian Rheumatology Association, NSW Health Statewide Biobank, ANZMUSC CRE Living Guidelines team, and the A3BC NHMRC CRE Better Outcomes for Inflammatory Arthritis collaborators and patient partners advisory group.

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