Professor Simon W Jones PhD, BSc

Professor Simon Jones

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Professor in Musculoskeletal Ageing
Interim Theme Lead for Ageing and Frailty
NIHR Birmingham Research Centre Theme Co-Lead, Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research Deputy Director

Contact details

Address
Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
MRC-Versus Arthritis Centre
Queen Elizabeth Hospital
The University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham B15 2WB

Professor Jones is a Professor in Musculoskeletal Ageing within the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing. His research is focused on understanding the inflammatory and metabolic mechanisms that mediate joint and musculoskeletal pathological disorders including Osteoarthritis, Sarcopenia, Type II Diabetes and Scoliosis. He has a particular research focus on the role of non-coding RNAs (including miRNAs and long non coding RNAs) in mediating inflammatory responses and in understanding how obesity affects the pathology of diseased joint and musculoskeletal tissues.

Biography

Simon graduated from the University of Nottingham in 1994 with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry and Biological Chemistry. After undertaking a PGCE in Secondary School Education, he completed a PhD in 1999 where he investigated the fibre type specific expression and functional role of calpain proteases in skeletal muscle growth. He then spent 4 years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the research group of Professor Paul Greenhaff (University of Nottigham) investigating the functional effect and molecular mechanisms of immobilisation-induced skeletal muscle atrophy and exercise rehabilitation, where he was the first to publish the effect of immobilisation in humans on the expression of muscle-specific ubiqitin ligases.

In 2003, Simon joined the Respiratory and Inflammation Research Area (RIRA) at AstraZeneca (Alderley Park) as a Senior Research Scientist. Here he investigated the utility of cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) for the cellular delivery of oligonucletide antisense and peptide cargo for the purpose of target validation studies (British Journal of Pharmacology, 2005).

Alongside this, he took a leading position within AstraZeneca's osteoarthritis (OA) drug discovery team by leading drug target identification and validation studies. Here he was successful in progressing the drug targets CXCR7/RDC1 and MAPKAPK2 (MK2) through to lead generation by demontrating their involvement in cartilage degeneration and chondrocyte hypertrophy (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 2006; Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 17, 2009). During this time he also made an important contribution to the field of non-coding RNAs, being the first to report the expression profile of microRNAs (miRNAs) in human OA cartilage and bone and to demonstrate that inhibition of specific miRNAs modulated MMP13 and TNFα production (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 2009).

In 2011, Simon took up the position of Research Laboratory Head at Boehringer-Ingelheim (Vienna, Austria), where he directed studies to validate new biological entities (NBEs) in oncology, including bi-paratopic antibody based drugs. 

In 2012 he transitioned from the pharmaceutical industry to take up the position of Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, University of Birmingham, where he established the Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Inflammation Group and where he has been Chief Investigator on 5 NIHR-adopted clinical studies involving over 1000 patient participants. 

As principal investigator, Simon has secured over £2million in research funding from charities (including Versus Arthritis, Dunhill Medical Trust, Birmingham Orthopaedic Charity), UKRI (MRC, Wellcome Trust), and from Industry (AstraZeneca/MedImmune, Nuvasive, Eli Lilly).

His research group was the first to report on the role of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in the inflammatory response of human OA chondrocytes (Arthritis Rheumatology. 68(4):845-56, 2016), and more recently on the functional role of the lncRNA MALAT1 in mediating the inflammatory synovial fibroblast phenotype (Arthritis Rheumatology, 2020).

His current research, supported by funding from the MRC Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP) and Eli Lilly Global Pain Discovery, involves leading a consortium of researchers to investigate the role of pain-associated fibroblast subsets (EBioMedicine, 2022) in mediating inflammatory OA joint pain.

Simon was promoted to Reader in 2019, and in 2022 to Professor in Musculoskeletal Ageing.

Teaching

Professor Jones teaches on the following modules:

Lecturer

  • BMedSci, Biology of Ageing
  • BMedSci, Immunity and Inflammatory Disease
  • MBChB, Infection, Immunity and Haematology
  • MPharm, Health, Disease and Therapeutics 3.1

Postgraduate supervision

Professor Simon Jones's research interests include the inflammatory and metabolic mechanisms that drive osteoarthritis pathology, the role of skeletal muscle dysfunction and atrophy in chronic disease and understanding the functional role of non-coding RNAs in mediating inflammatory responses.

Prof Jones's current research projects include:

1. The role of synovial fibroblasts in mediating joint pain in patients with osteoarthritis. In collaboration with Prof Chapman (University of Nottingham) and Eli Lilly Global Pain Discovery. Funding from MRC/UKRI.

2. The functional role of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in obesity associated chronic inflammatory diseases including osteoarthritis (in collaboration with Prof Mark Lindsay, University of Bath). Funding from Versus Arthritis.

3. Understanding the intrinsic drivers of scoliosis. Funders include Nuvasive and the Birmingham Orthopaedic Charity.

4. Determining the drivers of the age-related decline in skeletal muscle mass and function. Funders include MedImmune/AstraZeneca, BBSRC.

Research

Prof Jones’ research group conducts clinical translational research studies to investigate the inflammatory and metabolic mechanisms that drive musculoskeletal ageing disorders including osteoarthritis (OA) and sarcopenia.

A particular area of research interest is the functional role of non-coding RNAs in mediating inflammatory responses, and the impact of obesity in mediating chronic inflammation and ageing.

He is Chief Investigator on five NIHR-adopted clinical studies involving OA patients, through which he has established a biobank of tissues and derived primary cells (chondrocytes, myoblasts, synovial fibroblasts and osteoblasts) from over 1000 well-characterised patient cohorts.

He was the first to report on the role of the novel long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) family in the inflammatory response of human OA chondrocytes (Arthritis Rheumatology. 68(4):845-56, 2016), and on the functional role of the lncRNA MALAT1 in mediating the inflammatory obese OA synovial fibroblast phenotype (Arthritis Rheumatology, 72 (4), 609-619, 2020). Importantly, showing that targeted inhibition of MALAT1 in the joint could be a therapeutic approach to reducing synovial joint inflammation in obese OA patients.

More recently, following a 4-year clinical study, his group reported that synovial tissue at sites of joint pain in OA patients exhibits a differential phenotype with distinct synovial fibroblast subsets (EBioMedicine, 72, 103618, 2021). 

Other activities

Professor Jones is Chief Investigator for the following NIHR portfolio-adopted clinical studies:

  • IRAS 206880 (REC 16/SS/0172): “Skeletal muscle/adipose cross-talk: novel modulators of osteoarthritis joint inflammation”
  • IRAS 228205 (REC 17/SC/0456): “Inflammation and osteoarthritis joint pain”
  • IRAS 158485 (REC 14/ES/1044): Metabolic mediators of joint inflammation in osteoarthritis”
  • IRAS 125653 (REC 13/NE/0222): Adipose-secreted cytokines and OA pathology: pilot study"
  • IRAS 256224 (REC 19/WM/0083): “Intrinsic differences at the curve apex in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis patients"

Membership of professional bodies

Professor Jones served on the Versus Arthritis Research Fellowships panel (2019-2020) and currently sits on the Versus Arthritis Senior Fellowships panel 2021.

He is PhD training lead for the MRC-Versus Arthritis Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research (CMAR) and a member of the CMAR board.

Publications

Recent publications

Article

Finlay, M, Hill, LA, Neag, G, Patel, B, Chipara, M, Lamont, HC, Frost, K, Patrick, K, Lewis, JW, Nicholson, T, Edwards, J, Jones, SW, Grover, L & Naylor, AJ 2023, 'A detailed methodology for the long-term in vitro culture and analysis of three-dimensional, self-structuring bone models generated from cell lines or primary osteoblastic cell populations [version 1; peer review: awaiting peer review]', F1000Research. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.130779.1

Simou, K, Pan, P, Li, Q, Jones, SW, Davis, E, Preece, J & Zhang, ZJ 2023, 'Nanoparticle formulation for intra-articular treatment of osteoarthritic joints', Biotribology, vol. 35-36, 100262. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biotri.2023.100262

Wijesinghe, S, Badoume, A, Nanus, D, Sharma-Oates, A, Farah, H, Certo, M, Alnajjar, FAQ, Davis, E, Mauro, C, Lindsay, MA & Jones, S 2023, 'Obesity defined molecular endotypes in the synovium of patients with osteoarthritis provides a rationale for therapeutic targeting of fibroblast subsets', Clinical and Translational Medicine, vol. 13, no. 4, e1232. https://doi.org/10.1002/ctm2.1232

Wilhelmsen, A, Stephens, FB, Bennett, AJ, Karagounis, LG, Jones, S & Tsintzas, K 2023, 'Skeletal muscle myostatin mRNA expression is upregulated in aged human adults with excess adiposity, but is not associated with insulin resistance and ageing', GeroScience. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-023-00956-6

Simons, G, Birch, R, Stocks, J, Insch, E, Rijckborst, R, Neag, G, McColm, H, Romaniuk, L, Wright, C, Phillips, BE, Jones, SW, Pratt, AG, Siebert, S, Raza, K & Falahee, M 2023, 'The student patient alliance: development and formative evaluation of an initiative to support collaborations between patient and public involvement partners and doctoral students', BMC Rheumatology, vol. 7, no. 1, 36. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41927-023-00359-2

Edwards, SJ, Carter, S, Nicholson, T, Allen, SL, Morgan, PT, Jones, SW, Rendeiro, C & Breen, L 2022, '(-)-Epicatechin and its colonic metabolite hippuric acid protect against dexamethasone-induced atrophy in skeletal muscle cells', Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, vol. 110, 109150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2022.109150

Fenton, CG, Crastin, A, Martin, CS, Suresh, S, Montagna, I, Hussain, B, Naylor, AJ, Jones, SW, Hansen, MS, Gorvin, CM, Price, M, Filer, A, Cooper, MS, Lavery, GG, Raza, K & Hardy, RS 2022, '11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 within osteoclasts mediates the bone protective properties of therapeutic corticosteroids in chronic inflammation', International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 23, no. 13, 7334, pp. 7334. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23137334

Farah, H, Wijesinghe, S, Nicholson, T, Alnajjar, FAQ, Certo, M, Alghamdi, AMA, Davis, E, Young, S, Mauro, C & Jones, S 2022, 'Differential metabotypes in synovial fibroblasts and synovial fluid in hip osteoarthritis patients support inflammatory responses', International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 23, no. 6, 3266. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23063266

Camacho-Muñoz, D, Niven, J, Kucuk, S, Cucchi, D, Certo, M, Jones, SW, Fischer, DP, Mauro, C & Nicolaou, A 2022, 'Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reverse the impact of western diets on regulatory T cell responses through averting ceramide-mediated pathways', Biochemical Pharmacology, vol. 204, 115211. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bcp.2022.115211

Simou, K, Jones, SW, Davis, ET, Preece, J & Zhang, ZJ 2022, 'Rheological and interface adhesive properties of osteoarthritic synovial fluids', Biotribology, vol. 32, 100227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biotri.2022.100227

Wijesinghe, SN, Anderson, J, Brown, TJ, Nanus, DE, Housmans, B, Green, JA, Hackl, M, Choi, KK, Arkill, KP, Welting, T, James, V, Jones, SW & Peffers, MJ 2022, 'The role of extracellular vesicle miRNAs and tRNAs in synovial fibroblast senescence', Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, vol. 9, 971621. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmolb.2022.971621

Nicholson, T, Davis, L, Davis, ET, Ede, MN, Scott, A & Jones, SW 2022, 'e-Cigarette vapour condensate reduces viability and impairs function of human osteoblasts, in part, via a nicotine dependent mechanism', Toxics, vol. 10, no. 9, 506. https://doi.org/10.3390/toxics10090506

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Wijesinghe, SN, Lindsay, MA & Jones, SW 2022, Long non-coding RNAs in rheumatology. in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. vol. 1363, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Springer, pp. 35-70. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-92034-0_4

Preprint

Simons, G, Birch, R, Stocks, J, Insch, E, Rijckborst, R, Neag, G, McColm, H, Romaniuk, L, Wright, C, Phillips, B, Jones, S, Pratt, A, Siebert, S, Raza, K & Falahee, M 2023 'The Student Patient Alliance: Development and formative evaluation of an initiative to support collaborations between patient and public involvement contributors and doctoral students' medRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.01.26.23285050

Review article

Nicholson, TA, Sagmeister, M, Wijesinghe, SN, Farah, H, Hardy, RS & Jones, SW 2023, 'Oligonucleotide Therapeutics for Age-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders: Successes and Challenges', Pharmaceutics, vol. 15, no. 1, 237. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics15010237

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