With approximately 27 million Americans impacted by osteoarthritis, research is constantly delving into how to cure the disease, or, at the very least, lessen associated pain. Now, researchers from Duke University may have found a way to “work out” and repair cartilage through biological signaling.
Osteoarthritis is a debilitating condition where cartilage, a tissue that allows for fluid joint movements, is injured or overused and starts to break down. The resulting joint pain, stiffness, and tenderness are often permanent, as cartilage has proved nearly impossible to regrow and repair. Exercise can help stimulate cartilage growth, but may not be a viable option for someone already suffering from osteoarthritis. In the past, one of the only options for pain relief has been joint replacement surgery.
The recent study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that may no longer be the case. Researchers have identified TRPV4, what they’re calling an ion channel, which bridges mechanical loading, or the force or stress on a body part, and cartilage development. Essentially, TRPV4, a gene, tricks the cartilage into thinking it’s being exercised, leading to cartilage growth.
The researchers, led by Dr. Farshid Guilak, a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Duke and senior author of the study, tested this on cartilage cells from pigs. When TRPV4-activiating chemicals were given, the cartilage began to grow. When actual mechanical loading was applied but the ion channel was blocked, the cartilage didn’t change. Should similar changes be seen in human cartilage cells, this could present new options, and a possible cure, for people suffering from osteoarthritis.
This is not the first experiment into ways to offset the disease or its symptoms. In July 2016, Dr. Guilak found that using a patient’s stem cells from liposuction can be an alternative to hip replacement surgery.
Struggling with joint pain? POA’s orthopedic surgeons in Covington, Renton, and Maple Valley specialize in everything from knee arthroscopies to ACL surgery and can help decide what surgical or non-surgical options are best for you. Contact one of our orthopedic clinics today to get back to an active, healthy life.