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Protein may have protective role in osteoarthritic joints

Published on 26 July 2013
Protein may have protective role in osteoarthritic jointsA study funded by Arthritis Research UK suggests that a protein found in healthy cartilage tissue may hold the key to treating the degenerative joint disease osteoarthritis.

C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) is produced and secreted by chondrocytes - mature cells found in cartilage - and appears to have a protective effect against cartilage degradation.

Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London created a synthetic gel containing damaged cartilage, similar to that seen in osteoarthritis.

They added the CNP protein to the damaged cartilage and then compressed and exposed the gel to forces such as those experienced when a person does moderate exercise in real life.

Analysis revealed that older or diseased cartilage had more natriuretic peptide receptors than younger, healthier cartilage, and that the effects of CNP changed when the cartilage was diseased.

Furthermore, the scientists identified two new protective proteins with anti-inflammatory and reparative effects.

Study co-author Dr Nick Peake, from Queen Mary's Institute of Bioengineering, said: "While these are early results, the findings could be useful in treating osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis and affects more than eight million people in the UK.

"The important observation is the complementary effect of the CNP protein and the effect of compression on the cells. This multiplies the beneficial effects of both, resulting in reduced inflammation and cartilage repair."

Lead researcher Dr Tina Chowdhury added that the team is "very excited" about the findings and now hopes to replicate the results in animals with osteoarthritis, before moving to trials in patients.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, welcomed the findings of the study, which is published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.

He said: "This is an exciting piece of research. We know that exercise is essential to keep cartilage healthy and protect the joints against arthritis. Applying this knowledge to the treatment of osteoarthritis, where cartilage loss is substantial, has been challenging.

"If these preliminary results are validated in further research they could offer a novel and much-needed approach to treating the underlying cause of this distressing disorder and not just reducing the symptoms."
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