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An alumnus’ gift to stem cell research could lead to new treatments for joint diseases, giving new hope to patients and reducing the huge strain on the NHS.

Kyla Brady

Kyla Brady, whose research may lead to new treatments for joint diseases such as osteoarthritis.

The Bristol Pioneers

The Bristol Pioneers are a committed group of donors, whose generous gifts of £1,000 or more in an academic year, are enhancing strategic activities all across the University.

By giving at this high level the Pioneers help key projects to move ahead faster and allow the University to act on new opportunities more efficiently. Such support is crucial to taking Bristol’s research and teaching to the next level.

By choosing to give at this level, the Pioneers lead personal philanthropy at the University.

Number of Pioneers 2009/10: 291

Pioneer donations in 2009/10: £1,195,367

Bristol alumnus Tim Ritchie (BA 1978) and his wife Judi recently made a gift to stem cell research that will ensure PhD student Kyla Brady is able to complete the final two years of her research. The long-term aim of Kyla’s project is the development of new treatments for joint diseases affecting cartilage, such as osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects over 8 million people in the UK and 20 million people in Europe. In severe cases the joints have to be replaced with artificial implants; each year around 60,000 hip and knee replacements are carried out in the UK, almost all due to osteoarthritis. This places a huge burden on the NHS.

Stem cell therapy could provide a long-term solution. Over the past three years, Professor Anthony Hollander and his team have been working towards using stem cells to create cartilage. But more research is needed and there is a danger of this research being halted if funding for PhD students runs out.

For Tim and Judi, the human benefit of this research was why they wanted to give to this particular project, as Tim explains. ‘My wife and I have been making an annual donation for the past couple of years. Most recently, we spent a day at the University and were able to learn more about the pioneering work being undertaken by Professor Hollander and his team, and to hear about the difference this has already made to the quality of many peoples’ lives.

‘It was this visit which finally convinced us to give more this year. Learning first-hand of the personal commitment and dedication of those involved in ground-breaking research, and appreciating exactly what difference our own contribution would make to this, really brought the plan to life.’

Professor Hollander explains why this funding is so important. ‘We’re sure that with the help of generous donations we can turn scientific and clinical knowledge into practical solutions that will make a real difference to the lives of patients across the world, faster than we could otherwise.’

I’m honoured to have been given the opportunity to continue my PhD and am sincerely grateful for the generous contribution that the Ritchies have made towards my research. I am immensely interested and enthusiastic about the remarkable prospects of the clinical translation of stem cell research into therapeutic application.Kay Brady, PhD student, School of Cellular Molecular Medicine