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
‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie
Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy