Oct. 5 (UPI) -- New research with rats and human tissue samples may lead to a treatment for people with knee and spine osteoarthritis based on a newly found molecular target.
Scientists at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto focused on a molecule called microRNA-181a-5p, which is believed to cause inflammation, cartilage destruction and collagen depletion. The findings were published Thursday in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Osteoarthritis, known as degenerative joint disease or "wear and tear" arthritis, includes the breakdown of the protective cartilage found in the body's spine, hand, knee and hip joints.
As the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects more than 30 million U.S. adults, but patients currently have limited treatment options.
"This is important because there are currently no drugs or treatments available to patients that can stop osteoarthritis," Dr. Mohit Kapoor, a senior scientist at Kembril and arthritis research director at the affiliated University Health Network, said in a press release. "Current treatments for osteoarthritis address the symptoms, such as pain, but are unable to stop the progression of the disease."
But a blocker consisting of Locked Nucleic Acid-Antisense Oligonucleotides has the ability to prevent further joint destruction in the knee and spine, researchers say.
"The blocker is based on antisense technology," said first author Dr. Akihiro Nakamura, a post-doctoral research fellow. "When you inject this blocker into the joints, it blocks the destructive activity caused by microRNA-181-5p and stops cartilage degeneration."
Besides testing the method on rats, the research team used cells and tissues from Toronto Western Hospital patients who have knee or spine osteoarthritis.
The researchers want to examine safety studies, proper dosage and a method for injecting the blocker directly into the knee and spine joints.
"The technology in osteoarthritis is in its infancy, but the research has now taken a big step forward," said collaborator Dr. Raja Rampersaud, an orthopedic spine surgeon and clinician scientist at Toronto Western. "If we are able to develop a safe and effective injection for patients, this discovery could be a game changer."