Dr Ming- Chin Lee

Funded by: Jointly funded by Arthritis Australia and Arthritis Western Australia
Recipient: Dr Ming- Chin Lee
Intended Department Department of Medicine (RMH) University Of Melbourne
Project: CCL 17 in osteoarthritis and its associated pain


My ongoing research program is to focus on two main goals (i) understanding the role(s) of inflammatory cytokines/chemokines in musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, including inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA) and (ii) defining and validating new therapeutic targets for these diseases.

My early study discovered a new pathway where the chemokine CCL17 is an effector molecule of GM-CSF (granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor) and induces via a transcriptional factor, interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4), which is essential for inflammatory and arthritic pain and disease development in experimental animal models. I have also validated CCL17 as a potential therapeutic target using a therapeutic antibody-based protocol. This body of work has been published in a top ranking clinical journal, Journal of Clinical Investigation. I also found that TNF (tumour necrosis factor) is only required at the early stage of disease development (published in Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight). This finding acts as a knowledge foundation warranting future research in other MSK conditions, where pain is relevant. As such, using an experimental model of OA, I have determined the importance of CCL17 in OA pain development and validated it as a potential therapeutic target by using a monoclonal antibody-based therapeutic protocol neutralizing CCL17 in the OA model. This is the first time CCL17 has been proposed as a potential therapeutic target for OA and was recently published in Arthritis Research & Therapy.