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Study links senescent cells with osteoarthritis

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US researchers have identified a link between senescent cells and osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis.

Senescent cells accumulate with age and contribute to frailty and disease. But until now, there was no evidence to show a causal link between OA and cellular senescence.

In a study using mice, Mayo Clinic researchers injected small numbers of senescent and non-senescent cells from ear cartilage into the knee joint area.

They tracked the injected cells in the mice using bioluminescence and fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. This revealed that the injection of the senescent cells into the knee region caused leg pain, impaired mobility and characteristics of osteoarthritis, including damage to surrounding cartilage, X-ray changes, increased pain and impaired function.

“Osteoarthritis has previously been associated with the accumulation of senescent cells in or near the joints, however, this is the first time there has been evidence of a causal link,” commented Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging. “Additionally, we have developed a new senescent cell transplantation model that allows us to test whether clearing senescent cells alleviates or delays osteoarthritis.”

The researchers believe that targeting senescent cells could be a promising way to prevent or alleviate age-related OA.

“While there is more work to be done, these findings are a critical step toward that goal,” Dr. Kirkland said.

The study has been published online in the Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.