Genetic research may lead to therapies to prevent arthritis

May 3, 2012

Topic: Orthopaedics

Research may identify genes that can protect the joints from arthritis.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine discovered that mice may have certain genes that control the healing process of cartilage. These findings may one day lead to therapies for the prevention and treatment of various orthopaedics issues, such as osteoarthritis.

The scientists came upon their discovery after tagging laboratory mice with ear piercings. When the puncture wounds of several animals healed abnormally fast, the researchers suspected that they had genes that influenced the healing process in their cartilage.

Furthermore, these mice were less likely to develop osteoarthritis. These findings called to mind the fact that some humans can recover from joint injuries faster than others. If the scientists find the genes responsible for a quick healing process, they may one day be able to protect people's joints from osteoarthritis.

Identifying these genes in mice is an early step.

"Our goal is to see whether we can protect cartilage in people by detecting the early biological changes that occur in osteoarthritis and prevent it from progressing to the stage where joint replacement becomes necessary," said lead researcher Linda Sandell, Ph.D.

About 25 million Americans are currently living with osteoarthritis, according to the research team.

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