Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

What's been causing your knee to ache? Smurfs!

22.10.2007
Researchers believe Smurfs can help them predict who will get arthritis

A new clinical trial seeks to predict who is most likely to experience osteoarthritis, and to test whether an experimental treatment can prevent it altogether. Physicians are setting their sights on people who sustain a knee injury, seeking to understand why nearly half of them will later go on to develop osteoarthritis, a debilitating condition that causes pain and disability in more than 20 million Americans each year.

The work is funded by a special class of National Institutes of Health grants awarded to research programs that show promise of quickly translating basic science discoveries into patient treatments. In this case, initial research has shown that an enzyme which controls the response of cells to growth factors may in fact be a major cause of osteoarthritis. The enzymes are called "Smad Ubiquitination Regulatory Factors,” or, smurfs, but unlike the small, loveable blue cartoon characters, researchers believe that a particular form of these regulatory enzymes, smurf2, might in fact be responsible for America’s leading cause of disability.

“We believe that smurf2 controls whether or not a cartilage cell matures and calcifies into hard bone, which is a very good thing when ‘turned on’ in those areas of the body where we are supposed to have hard bone,” said Randy Rosier, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Orthopaedics and director of Research Translation in Orthopaedics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “But when smurf2 is active in joint cartilage, it may set off a chain reaction that leads to the steady deterioration of the smooth gliding surface tissue, or cartilage, which comprises the joint surface. When this occurs, the cartilage breaks down and severely damages the weight-bearing surface of a joint. Or, put another way, activation of smurf2 in the joint cartilage appears to significantly contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis.”

Frog Embryos and Cartilage Cells

Over the past decade, smurfs have begun to capture the attention of scientists, after a research team led by Gerald H. Thomsen, Ph.D., at Stony Brook University, identified the enzymes’ critical role in regulating levels of important molecules that help determine which genes are turned on or off in a variety of cells throughout the body. In fact, Rosier first became intrigued with smurfs after reading about how they helped cell differentiation in frog embryos.

“I got to wondering what, if any, control smurfs might have on cartilage cell development and maturation,” he said.

And so, over the course of several years, Rosier and his research team conducted a series of experiments that not only identified the role of smurf2 in bone cell and cartilage signaling, but uncovered its vital link to osteoarthritis.

First, the team compared healthy and diseased cartilage, and discovered that smurf2 was only present in osteoarthritic cartilage. They next demonstrated that smurf2s are stimulated by inflammation, and are expressed in cartilage within a few months following an injury.

Further experiments showed that smurf2 was present in the joints of patients in early-stage arthritis, when patients might begin to experience mild discomfort, but long before other well-known molecular markers of osteoarthritis began to emerge.

“It was at this point that we knew smurf2s are not just a casual bystander in arthritis, but rather, the catalyst that sets off the chain reaction that leads to osteoarthritis,” Rosier said

Rosier is now teaming with sports medicine surgeon Michael Maloney, M.D., to conduct the just underway clinical trial. The team will examine tissue samples from healthy, non-arthritic patients who have sustained an injury to the meniscus to determine the level of smurf2 expression in their cartilage at the beginning of the trial. In addition, a baseline MRI will measure the cartilage at the point of injury, and three years later. If results confirm the team’s earlier findings, the MRIs of patients with high smurf2 expression will show the beginning signs of osteoarthritis as measured by hardening of the cartilage and bone loss.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a simple diagnostic test to determine whether a person with a knee injury has a high level of smurf2s in their cartilage,” Rosier said. “In these cases, physicians can advise the patient to stop high-intensity, wear-and-tear activity, slowing the onset of arthritis and lessening its severity. Eventually, we hope to create an injection that will stop smurf2s’ ability to turn on the calcification and degeneration process in cartilage that leads to osteoarthritis.”

While Rosier admits the development of an injection is a long time off, he believes that physician counseling will do a world of good – and that’s good news for a disease that is estimated to cost the United States about $42 billion a year.

“Think of a 25-year male old who tears his meniscus. Today, after successfully removing the torn meniscus fragment and physical therapy, in most cases, he’s right back to his regular activity level,” Rosier said. “But if his physician can tell him with certainty that he will develop osteoarthritis, he has the opportunity to change his activity level, reducing his risk and severity of osteoarthritis.”

Germaine Reinhardt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.urmc.rochester.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope
23.10.2017 | University at Buffalo

nachricht Scientists track ovarian cancers to site of origin: Fallopian tubes
23.10.2017 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

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...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

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....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

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...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Single nanoparticle mapping paves the way for better nanotechnology

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A quantum spin liquid

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Antibiotic resistance: a strain of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli is on the rise

24.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>