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Protein with links to osteoarthritis identified

Published on 03 March 2016
Protein with links to osteoarthritis identified

Researchers have discovered a protein that plays a potentially important role in key biological processes underpinning osteoarthritis.

A team from Okayama University in Japan has published a study in the medical journal Bone showing that a protein known as CCN4 has a part to play in cartilage repair, potentially opening the door for new approaches to treatment.

The role of the CCN4 protein
In this study, the researchers examined human bone marrow stromal osteoprogenitor cells, finding that CCN4 helps to positively regulate the generation of important cartilage cells that tend to be depleted in osteoarthritis patients.

Looking at cells where CCN4 was over-expressed, it was observed that the processes leading to the production of cartilage were enhanced, whereas the opposite was true when CCN4 was knocked out.

Extending the study further to include mice with knee injuries, it was shown that animals whose CCN4 levels had been reduced experienced a significantly reduced capacity to repair cartilage than those left with the CCN4 untampered.

Implications for osteoarthritis
These insights into the cellular mechanisms underpinning cartilage repair may contribute to the development of new treatments in future, allowing improved clinical outcomes to be achieved.

Cartilage tissue does not naturally repair itself in adults, meaning injuries or trauma, overloading through obesity or the simple act of ageing can all lead to degeneration and depletion of cartilage and subchondral bone, leading to the onset of osteoarthritis.

Dr Katherine Free, research liaison and communications manager at Arthritis Research UK, said: "This is interesting research that could improve our understanding of the cartilage repair process and how it goes wrong in the joints of people with osteoarthritis.

"Shedding new light on what is going on in the joints both in health and disease paves the way for the development for new and improved treatments to help the eight million people living with this condition."

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