Buttoning a shirt or tying shoelaces is something most of us take for granted, but they're tasks that can be very difficult people with a debilitating condition that affects the hands.

Now, a study at the Lawson Health Research Institute is shedding light on Dupuytren's disease or Dupuytren's contracture, which impacts thousands of people.

Ronald Reagan had it, so did Margaret Thatcher and Pirates of the Caribbean star Bill Nighy does too.

Londoner Bill Arbing is also living with it.

"It made it hard for me to shake hands, put my hand in my pocket...it was tough grabbing things because you couldn't hold onto them properly."

Dupuytren's is a condition that causes tissues in the hand to contract and fingers to curl permanently into the palm of the hand.

Surgery has helped Arbing regain movement, "It takes a while, but it does come back."

But while he has come a long way, he understands the effects could be temporary.

Dr. David O'Gorman, a Lawson researcher, says "Unfortunately about a third of patients get a recurrence directly after all that surgery."

But his research is trying to get to the cause of the disease on a molecular level through a substance called IGF2.

"Conditions like Dupuytren's disease are considered adhesive diseases and we think IGF2 is promoting the adhesive qualities of the cells inside the fascia of the hand," O'Gorman says.

Dupuytren's is typically found in men of Caucasian descent in late middle-age, and because it's also linked with diabetes, the number of people affected is expected to increase in the years ahead.

O'Gorman says "Ideally if we could come up with some kind of a therapeutic intervention, which after someone had a single operation we could prevent recurrence close to 100 per cent of the time this would save patients an enormous amount of pain and suffering."

Arbing was part of the Lawson study and hopes it will improve our understanding of the condition not only for himself, but since there is a genetic component to the disease, for his children as well.

"I'm just hoping that they'll be able to find something that would prevent it, or even if you get it, you get something - a medication or whatever - that can actually either get rid of it or delay it."