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HPOS: UCD study recruits thousands with aim of predicting cases of psoriatic arthritis

Posted 26 October, 2023

A major research project recruiting thousands of patients across Ireland could spell the end of psoriatic arthritis – a painful inflammatory disease that can cause permanent joint damage quickly when not treated.

The EU-wide consortium (opens in a new window)HIPPOCRATES is establishing a large observational study of 25,000 patients with psoriasis, 2,000 of whom will be from Ireland, for its (opens in a new window)HPOS study - a fully online study, which will monitor people with psoriasis over a three-year period to see who develops psoriatic arthritis, referred to as PsA.

Overseen by University College Dublin and University of Oxford, HPOS (HIPPOCRATES Prospective Observational Study) is examining the clinical, genetic, and environmental factors behind PsA with the hope of discovering key biomarkers that could identify those at risk of developing the disease and those in the early stage.

PsA develops in one out of every three people who have psoriasis - a condition that causes flaky, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin across different parts of the body, for example the back of the hands or the scalp, and depending on its severity can itself be very debilitating.

It is estimated that 3% of the population suffers from psoriasis, with an estimated 6.4 million people across Europe affected.

“At the moment there is no way to predict which patients with psoriasis are likely to go on to develop joint problems (PsA),” said Professor Laura Coates, NIHR Clinician Scientist and Senior Clinical Research Fellow at NDORMS, University of Oxford.

Professor Coates, in collaboration with (opens in a new window)Professor Oliver FitzGerald and (opens in a new window)Professor Stephen Pennington from University College Dublin, are leading the HPOS research project.

"If we could identify which person with skin psoriasis is likely to develop PsA, then we could quite possibly prevent it," said Professor FitzGerald.

“The opportunity to recruit thousands of people with psoriasis across Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe is very exciting,” noted Professor Pennington.

Early intervention of PsA is important as the condition can cause permanent and disabling joint damage. This irreversible damage can even occur when pain is not severe.

Alongside symptoms that include pain, joint stiffness, and fatigue, increasingly PsA has been associated with multiple comorbidities, particularly those affecting mental health such as depression, and those contributing to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

“We aim to identify clinical and molecular risk factors for the development of PsA,” said Professor Pennington.

“If we can identify risk factors which have good performance characteristics, this would open up a new era of disease prevention studies,” added Professor FitzGerald.

What Does the Study Include?

To register, HPOS participants must be diagnosed with psoriasis, be over 18 years of age, and must not have received a PsA diagnosis.

Participants will be asked to fill in questionnaires online looking for symptoms suggestive of PsA. They will receive regular feedback to help monitor their condition and help them get the care they may need if they begin to develop the diesase.

For a small number of participants, and with their agreement, they will be sent a kit with instructions to collect and send a small finger-prick blood sample by prepaid post to the University College Dublin.

Because the study aims to collect information over a five-year period, it has been designed to be as simple and flexible as possible and requires no hospital visits.

Professor FitzGerald said that “individuals who have psoriatic disease have been involved in every aspect of HPOS including study design, promotion, self-recruitment and consent” and Professor Steve Pennington added it is “a privilege to be part of such a ground-breaking study”.

For more information, and to find out how to take part in the HPOS study, follow this link: (opens in a new window)https://hpos.study/

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations

To contact the UCD News & Content Team, email: newsdesk@ucd.ie