US team successfully reverses osteoarthritis in rats

Ageing brings with it the gradual loss of damage repair/control of our bodies, so, intensely and often used tissues are prone to wearing out – this is commonly seen in osteoarthritis where joints become inflamed and painful to move. At present, treatment involves taking pain killers or getting a full joint replacement;

but researchers at Salk Institute for Biological Studies (Salk) in California, have just tested a combination of two experimental drugs in the lab, which appears to have successfully reversed the symptoms of osteoarthritis in rats, report agencies. The two molecules, known as alpha-KLOTHO (αKLOTHO) and TGF beta receptor 2 (TGFβR2), demonstrated only moderate results when used on their own previously, but together had astounding effects on rat’s knees damaged by osteoarthritis.

 αKLOTHO would keep the extra-cellular matrix that surrounds cartilage cells from degrading, while TGFβR2 improves the ability of cartilage cells to proliferate. After six weeks of testing, the rats induced to make the two molecules in their bodies exhibited thicker cartilage and more actively growing cells – the disease had actually reversed from stage 2 osteoarthritis back to stage 1. 

The researchers also tested the drug combo on isolated human articular cartilage cells grown in the lab to similar results – an increase in molecules that help with cell proliferation and formation of the extra-cellular matrix. The encouraging results have prompted the Salk researchers to continue developing the treatment to see if it can prevent osteoarthritis progression in humans.