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Improved treatment of osteoarthritis in sight?
According to the prevailing doctrine, cartilage cannot grow back in human joints. Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina have now been able to prove the opposite. The knowledge gained could contribute to the development of new treatment methods for joint wear (arthrosis) in the future.
The current study by Duke University in North Carolina found that it is possible to regrow the cartilage in joints. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Science Advances".
Not only animals can produce new cartilage
With arthrosis, the joints hurt and stiffen and the so-called articular cartilage is damaged in the disease. Basically, all of our joints can be affected by arthrotic changes. It has long been believed that adult humans are unable to produce new cartilage, unlike a number of animals such as salamanders. Salamanders can not only regenerate joint damage, they can even form completely new limbs.
Adult people can produce new cartilage
In their current study, the researchers have now found evidence that adults can produce new cartilage. The process appears to be linked to small molecules that also control limb regrowth in animals like the salamander.
The same proteins in the body have different ages
With increasing age of the proteins, amino acid building blocks undergo a certain chemical change. When the rate of this change becomes known, it is possible to determine the ratio of young to old proteins in the tissue by examining to what extent these changes have built up. Using samples of cartilage proteins from 18 participants, the team found that the rate of change for different proteins is different. It was observed that ankle proteins in the body were often younger than the same proteins in the knees and hips. A joint with younger proteins has an improved ability to regenerate.
What role do microRNAs play?
The small molecules involved in the regeneration process, known as microRNAs, play an important key role in the regeneration of limbs in animals. There are many more of these special microRNAs in the ankle than in the knee and more in the knee than in the hip, the researchers report. These molecules appear to be involved in the shutdown of genes that suppress the production of cartilage proteins. These microRNAs also appear to be more related to the fluctuation rate of cartilage protein levels in people with osteoarthritis than in people without osteoarthritis.
Can microRNAs slow the progression of osteoarthritis?
Various microRNAs have previously been linked to the development of osteoarthritis. Injection of certain microRNAs could likely slow the progression of osteoarthritis in animals. The current investigation was limited to only a subset of cartilage proteins, but the results strengthen the theory that an injection of microRNAs, which are connected with the production of cartilage proteins, could support their repair.
Why some joints are more susceptible to osteoarthritis
Not only does the study seem to show a possible mechanism by which the cartilage repairs itself, it also provides a possible explanation for why some joints are more susceptible to osteoarthritis. Further long-term studies should deal with how such mechanisms can change over time in order to develop possible treatment methods, the research team concluded. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Ming-Feng Hsueh, Patrik Önnerfjord, Michael P. Bolognesi, Mark E. Easley, Virginia B. Kraus: Analysis of “old” proteins unmasks dynamic gradient of cartilage turnover in human limbs, in Science Advances (query: 10.10.2019), Science Advances