The disease, which affects more than five million people in the UK, is caused by the wear and tear of the smooth, hard cartilage tissue that covers the ends of bones allowing them to glide over one another at the joint.
Scientists have long known that cartilage gets its strength from interlocking millimetre-long collagen fibres that work in a similar way to the load-bearing steel rods in reinforced concrete.
But the precise structure of these fibres or ‘fibrils’ has remained a mystery for more than 40 years, so hindering any progress towards the development of potential therapies.
Now, a team from The University of Manchester has used sophisticated electron microscope techniques to uncover the molecular structure of the thinner of the two types of collagen fibrils.
Professor Karl Kadler, who led the research in the Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “The ability of cartilage to withstand cycles of compression and relaxation is directly attributable to the collagen fibrils.
“Osteoarthritis occurs when the fibrils are disrupted or lost – just like concrete without the steel, the cartilage becomes mechanically weak and susceptible to wear and tear.
“Eventually, the cartilage breaks down altogether and sufferers experience severe pain as the two ends of the bones rub against each other.”
The team’s findings – published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – also explain why mutations in cartilage collagen genes cause osteoarthritis.
“Without a detailed understanding of the structure of these fibrils, a treatment that prevents them deteriorating would always prove elusive,” said Professor Kadler.
“This research, while just a beginning, at least establishes some basic scientific facts that could prove useful in future studies on osteoarthritis and related conditions.”
The next stage of the team’s work will be to determine the structure of the thicker fibrils and examine how collagen cells manage to produce these relatively large fibrous structures which are 1,000 times their own size.
Once scientists understand how the fibrils form and develop in healthy cartilage, they can then investigate what happens when things go wrong in diseases like osteoarthritis.
Aeron Haworth | alfa
Bolstering fat cells offers potential new leukemia treatment
17.10.2017 | McMaster University
Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes
17.10.2017 | King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences