Gehua Zhen, Courtesy of Nature Medicine
When placed in the bone (green) beneath the cartilage (red) of a rat’s knee joint, antibodies against the protein TGF-beta1 can prevent the damage caused by osteoarthritis. Left, without treatment; right, with treatment.
Cao says degeneration is most frequently initiated by instability in the load-bearing joints of the knee and hip caused by injury or strain, so athletes, overweight people and people whose muscles are weakened by aging are at highest risk of developing OA. The prevalence of the disease is rapidly increasing; it currently affects 27 million Americans and may double by 2030. The only treatment available is pain management, or surgical replacement of the arthritic joint with a prosthetic one.Cao says that the lack of effective drugs or a complete understanding of the underlying process that causes OA to progress led his group to search for a different underlying cause. “We began to think of cartilage and the bone underneath it, called subchondral bone, as functioning as a single unit,” says Cao. “That helped us to see the ways in which the bone was responding to changes in the cartilage and exacerbating the problem.”
Catherine Kolf | Newswise
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