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Scientists discover promising protein to treat osteoarthritis

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According to an article published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy, researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, have discovered that a protein found in healthy cartilage could be used to treat osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the joints and cartilage resulting in pain and difficulties in moving and walking. It seems that healthy cartilage contains a protein called CNP, along with other components such as collagen fibers, etc.. Dr Nick Peake, co-author of the study from Queen Mary’s Institute of Bioengineering, said they are very excited about this discovery and the next step is to repeat the experiment on animal models and then in humans.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease and is present in almost all people over 70 years. Cartilage is composed of chondrocytes and extracellular matrix (collagen, glycosaminoglycans, etc.); it should be mentioned that  the cartilage constantly reshapes due to strong compression and relaxation forces. It seems that the initial event in the development of osteoarthritis is increased activity of chondrocytes and increased synthesis of subchondral bone. Then the cartilage deteriorates and bone cysts occur. Initially, the patient feels pain and morning stiffness but gradually he starts to have movement limitations and ankylosing joints.


Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering in Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, thought to create a special gel in the laboratory that would mimic cartilage in osteoarthritis, which was compressed and subjected to the same forces when a person does moderate exercise. Then they added to this gel the CNP protein. After analyzing the gel samples, the researchers found two new proteins that expresses inflammatory and reparative effects. Another finding was that the effects of this protein may change throughout life, especially with age and disease progression.

Dr Nick Peake, co-author of the study from Queen Mary’s Institute of Bioengineering, pointed out that although the results are early, the findings could lead to the development of a cure for osteoarthritis, one of the most common forms of arthritis and affects, in average, 8 million people in the UK. He added that the findings are the result of complementary effects of CNP protein and compression effect on cells. All this leads to decrease inflammation and cartilage repair. Dr. Chowdhury stresses that they will collaborate with clinicians and pharmacologists from the William Harvey Research Institute and Royal London Hospital, for the discovery to become part of clinical practice in five years.