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Osteoarthritis: Lubricating the arthritic knee may help cure

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Color radiograph of the knee of an 87-year-old male patient with severe osteoarthritis

DR P. MARAZZI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Knees with painful arthritis can be treated by injecting lubricating fluid that mimics the natural version found in joints. This fluid has been shown to allow damaged joints to repair themselves and promote cartilage regeneration in rats.

Osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear as a person grows older, with damage to the cartilage, the rubbery tissue that covers the ends of the bones. A knee scan of arthritis can show fragments of cartilage in a broken joint from major cartilage tissue.

This increases friction inside the joint and creates a feedback loop that accelerates damage. Chuan Bin Mao At the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

People can have surgery to remove debris and smooth the remaining cartilage, but this doesn’t work very well.Some experimental approaches include injection Stem cells, Often taken from human blood or fat.

Mao and his team instead focused on synovial fluid, the fluid in the joints. Healthy joint fluid contains large molecules called lubricating complexes. It is composed of a hyaluronic acid skeleton and has a feather-like subunit called lubricin and a lipid subunit.

The feather-like subunits bind to water molecules and the entire lubricating complex binds to cartilage. This creates a watery layer on the cartilage that reduces friction during joint movement.

Mao and his colleagues created an artificial version of the lubricating complex by binding another feather-like molecule called PAMPS and a lipid substitute to the same hyaluronic acid skeleton. When applied to human cartilage pieces, this reduced friction in lab tests.

Researchers also injected the substance into rats with early arthritis in the leg joints. Eight weeks later, when measured on a commonly used arthritis grading scale, rat joints appeared to be near normal under a microscope. The cartilage seemed to have regrown, Mao says. “We have found that lubrication helps regenerate tissue. This is new.”

The team then tries artificial fluids on large animals that have joints that resemble human joints.

Journal reference: Nature Biomedical Engineering, DOI: 10.1038 / s41551-021-00785-y

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Osteoarthritis: Lubricating the arthritic knee may help cure

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