Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of arthritis, affects over eight million people in the UK. This painful condition is the result of cartilage loss in the joints, which makes it very difficult to engage in any physical activity. Now researchers from Queen Mary, University of London are hoping that their new discovery could lead to the creation of an OA treatment, possibly within five years.
The Queen Mary team believes that the answer lies in a protein called CNP. It is found naturally in healthy cartilage. The researchers synthesised a gel containing damaged cartilage and CNP, compressed it and subjected it to forces similar to those experienced by a person during moderate exercise. When the gel samples were examined after the experiment, the scientists discovered two new protective proteins with anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects. They also established that the effects of CNP changed as people age and the amount of diseased cartilage grows.
Dr Nick Peake of Queen Mary´s Institute of Bioengineering, one of the study report authors, said that these were early findings but they could prove useful in developing an OA treatment. The observed complementary effect of CNP and that of compression on the cells increased the benefits by delivering reduced inflammation and cartilage repair, Peake added.
Dr Tina Chowdhury, who led the research team, said that the next step would be to conduct a study on diseased animal cartilage and then move to human subjects. Chowdhury and her colleagues have joined forces with pharmacologists and clinicians from the William Harvey Research Institute and Royal London Hospital, aiming for clinically feasible results within five years.