While there are no treatments or medications currently available prevent and reverse the impacts of arthritis, scientists are one step closer to being able to stop the cartilage breakdown that causes osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, impacting one in five Australians and 630 million people worldwide. Medication is currently available to alleviate the pain, but these aren’t effective in reversing or slowing down the cartilage breakdown associated with the disease.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have now designed a new material that could improve treatment by administering drugs directly into the cartilage of those with osteoarthritis. The material can penetrate deep into the cartilage, allowing medication to enter bones that has the potential to heal damaged tissue, according to the study published in the Science Translational Medicine Journal.
Researchers said this is a new way of getting directly to the cells that experience the damage and treat them with therapeutics that could change their behaviour. Testing on rats, researchers were able to use the new material to deliver an experimental drug called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) to prevent breakdown. Trials shows it was more effective than injecting the drug into the joint on its own without the material.
Previous studies have shown IGF-1 can help regenerate cartilage in animals, but many osteoarthritis medications that have been effective in animal studies haven’t performed well in clinical trials. MIT researchers believe this is because the drugs were cleared from the joint before they could reach deeper layers, which they were intended to target. The development of the new material could change that.
The sphere-shaped material works by coating the surface of the cartilage before diffusing through it. The coating isn’t permanent and the molecules of the material can move deeper into the tissue. Once here, it stimulates cells to produce the building blocks of cartilage known as proteogylcans, as well as promoting cell growth and preventing cell death.
On the test with rats, researchers discovered that by injecting particles into the rats’ knees, the material lasted up to four days, which is 10 times longer than 1GF-1 injected alone. The drug concentration in the joints also remained high enough to have a therapeutic effect for up to 30 days. Researchers are now hopeful humans could also benefit from similar joint injections, although further trials are needed.
The animal trials also showed that injured joints treated with nanoparticle-drug combination was far less damaged than cartilage in joints that were untreated or treated with IGF-1 alone. Reductions in joint inflammation and bone spur formation was also observed.