Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects at least 30 million Americans. There is no cure for the degenerative disease, but an innovative therapeutic treatment may provide relief for many people.
A recent study at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto discovered that a blocking agent injected into the spine or knees halts the erosion of cartilage that lubricates bones in the joints. The loss of this cushioning tissue, which occurs gradually over the years, causes pain and reduced mobility. While cartilage cannot be replaced, the blocker prevents the deterioration from advancing.
Science Daily reported that the researchers published their findings in the medical journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. “This is important because there are currently no drugs or treatments available to patients that can stop osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Mohit Kapoor, arthritis research director at the Toronto-based University Health Network. He was the senior scientist on the research team.
“Current treatments for osteoarthritis address the symptoms, such as pain, but are unable to stop the progression of the disease,” Kapoor explained. “The blocker we’ve tested is disease-modifying. It has the ability to prevent further joint destruction in both knee and spine.”
The researchers used animal models and human tissues to assess the blocking compound’s effect on the type of molecule that is believed to be responsible for the inflammation, cartilage loss and collagen depletion associated with osteoarthritis.
“The blocker is based on anti-sense technology,” said the institute’s Dr. Akihiro Nakamura. “When you inject this blocker into the joints, it blocks the destructive activity … and stops cartilage degeneration.”
After trying out the procedure on rats and other rodents, the researchers applied the blocker to cells and tissues they extracted from human osteoarthritis patients at Toronto Western Hospital.
“The technology in osteoarthritis is in its infancy, but the research has now taken a big step forward,” declared Dr. Raja Rampersaud, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the hospital who worked with Kapoor’s team. “If we are able to develop a safe and effective injection for patients, this discovery could be a game changer.”
Scientists still must learn the best way to inject the blocker directly into spine and knee joints, and determine the most effective dose. Safety protocols also must be developed before the procedure can qualify for approval.
Another recent study, in Belgium, revealed that a certain antioxidant can help slow the destruction of cartilage and bones. The researchers found that osteoarthritis patients have low concentrations of the protein ANP32A. They wrote that the protein “protects against the development and progression of osteoarthritis by preventing oxidative in the articular cartilage.”
Medical News Today reported that when arthritic mice were given water laced with the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), the animals’ symptoms stopped getting worse. According to the researchers, ANP32A boosts levels of an enzyme called ATM, which destroys the free radicals that cause oxidation.
The study’s authors predicted that their findings “may have therapeutic implications not only in chronic joint disorders but also in bone and neurological diseases.”