A new way of treating osteoarthritis is under development at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). It uses ‘microcapsules’ to reduce inflammation in the cartilage and reverse damage to tissue.
The researchers focused their efforts on the delivery of a protein molecule called C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP), which occurs naturally in the body and is known to reduce inflammation and aid in the repair of damaged tissue.
Until now, CNP has not been successfully used to treat osteoarthritis because it is easily broken down and cannot reach the diseased site, even when the protein is injected into the cartilage tissue.
To address this problem the scientists at QMUL constructed tiny microcapsules, just 2 microns in diameter, with individual layers containing CNP that could release the protein slowly and therefore deliver the treatment effectively.
Experiments on samples of cartilage taken from animals showed that the microcapsules could deliver the anti-inflammatory CNP in a highly effective way.
What does this mean for patients? Well, it´s possible that in the future patients with osteoarthritis could visit their GP for injections of microcapsules to heal damaged cartilage.
The leader of the research, Dr Tina Chowdhury, from QMUL´s School of Engineering and Materials Science, said:
“If this method can be transferred to patients it could drastically slow the progression of osteoarthritis and even begin to repair damaged tissue.
“CNP is currently available to treat other conditions such as skeletal diseases and cardiovascular repair. If we could design simple injections using the microcapsules, this means the technology has the potential to be an effective and relatively cheap treatment that could be delivered in the clinic or at home.”
The research was funded by Arthritis Research UK and the AO Foundation.
Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research at Arthritis Research UK, welcomed the development. He said:
“Current treatment options for osteoarthritis are limited, and therefore developing new ways to treat this painful and debilitating condition is currently a major area of research. The focus is not only about identifying promising new targets, as delivery of a drug to the appropriate site can often be as challenging as developing the treatment itself, and can hinder getting otherwise effective medicines to patients. This work represents a good example of how researchers are developing innovative new approaches to get around this problem.”