Osteoarthritis (OA) affects 30 million Americans, with a good number being senior citizens. Each year, 3 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition of the joints, primarily affecting the knees, hips, lower back and neck. The small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe are also affected.
Osteoarthritis: What Is It?
Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis, a progressive disease, and very painful.
In normal joints, a firm, rubbery material called cartilage covers the end of each bone. This cartilage provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion between the bones. In OA, the cartilage breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint.
As the disease worsens over time, bones can break down and develop growths called spurs. These are small bits of bone or cartilage that have chipped off and now float around in the joint. In addition, an inflammatory process can also occur in which proteins and enzymes develop that further damage the cartilage. This inflammation eventually wears away the cartilage to the point where bone rubs against bone, resulting in more joint damage and pain.
While there are a variety of ways in which sufferers can manage this long-term, chronic condition, there is currently no cure for it. Current treatments for osteoarthritis address the symptoms, such as pain, but are unable to stop the progression of the disease. But, a recent announcement indicates that a cure for OA may be right around the corner.
Osteoarthritis: Is This The Cure?
A cure for Osteoarthritis may be close at hand.
In a recently reported study, scientists at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, discovered that a molecule called microRNA-181a-5p plays a key role in destroying cartilage. Cartilage is the main structural protein found in connective tissues.
The researchers developed a compound that blocks the microRNA molecule. They tested a blocker compound called called LNA-miR-181a-5p ASO in rats, rodents, cell cultures, as well as tissue samples from people with knee and spine OA. They injected the compound directly into the affected joints and found that it reduced inflammation, blocked the microRNA-181a-5p , and stopped the cartilage degeneration.
The next step is to start safety studies and human clinical trials. Dosages and a variety of delivery systems will also be tested.