Affecting 30 million adults, osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder in the United States; its prevalence is expected to rise in the coming years due to an aging population and increasing rate of obesity.

Through the aging process, the cartilage between bones breaks down sometimes even causing the bones themselves to change shape, in turn producing increased pain, stiffness, and swelling around joints. Currently, there is no cure for osteoarthritis, however doctors are able to treat symptoms with pain relief medicine, various supportive devices, and sometimes even surgery. As scientists studied osteoarthritis, they began to wonder if the regenerative properties that exist in other mammalian species could help treat, and even cure, human osteoarthritis.

According to Pedro Guillen, from Medical News Today, he explains “scientists have discovered that the use of two experimental osteoarthritis drugs in combination significantly reduces arthritis in rats.” The results here, give further insight into their research.

Meanwhile, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA found connections between rat cells and human cells. Indicating the molecules alpha-KLOTHO (aKLOTHO) and TGF beta receptor 2 (TGFβR2) as possible drugs in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Alpha-KLOTHO influences the molecules around the cartilage cells, ultimately aiding in stopping the breakdown of the cartilage. While, TGFβR2 successfully targets the cartilage cells directly to stop break-down, and encourages the production of more cells. “We thought that by mixing these two molecules that work in different ways, maybe we could make something better,” says Paloma Martinez-Redondo, a Salk postdoctoral fellow and co-first author of a groundbreaking new study.

The Experiment

The researchers gave the rats with osteoarthritis the DNA instructions for making these two types of molecules (aKLOTHO and TGFβR2), while another group of rats received control particles. Six weeks later, the rats that were given the control particles had more severe osteoarthritis in their knees, as the arthritis moved from stage 2 to stage 4 osteoarthritis. While in comparison, the rats who received the combination of aKLOTHO and TGFβR2 had significantly less arthritis; it was reported that their cartilage was healthier and the cells were actively proliferating compared to the rats that received control particles. In fact, the rats who received both aKLOTHO and TGFβR2 had their osteoarthritis decreased from stage 2 to stage 1. The study continued to run experiments on other animal species as well with promising results, indicating that the combination of aKLOTHO and TGFβR2 could be a treatment for osteoarthritis in humans.

The study also performed experiments on isolated human cartilage cells testing for similar results. There is hope that the results the study saw in rats and other species could indicate a potential treatment for patients; scientist are still investigating the combination of aKLOTHO and TGFβR2 as an effective treatment plan and preventative treatment for osteoarthritis.

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