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 Collagen nanofibrils in mammalian tissues get stronger with exercise
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule
12.12.2018 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

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: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pressure tuned magnetism paves the way for novel electronic devices

18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

New type of low-energy nanolaser that shines in all directions

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA research reveals Saturn is losing its rings at 'worst-case-scenario' rate

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>