Osteoarthritis affects over 20 million people in the United States alone. It causes severe joint pain and can result in disability for some people. While there are drugs that can alleviate the pain, there is no treatment to slow down the disease or reverse the damage that has already been done.
Luckily, that may be changing. Engineers have designed a new material that can penetrate deep into the damaged cartilage and may even be able to heal the damaged tissue. The drug is called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and has been found to regenerate the cartilage in animals. Although other experimental treatments have shown promise in animal trials and not worked well on humans, scientists are still hopeful.
They believe that other drugs failed because they cleared the joint cavity before they could penetrate the deep layer of chondrocytes that they were meant to target. This new drug will penetrate all the way through the cartilage. The sphere shaped molecule contains branched structures called dendrimers and these branches have a positive charge at the end of each tip. This helps it bind to the cartilage that is negatively charged.
When these new particles are injected into a joint, they coat the surface of the cartilage and then begin diffusing into it. The molecules, however, don’t bind permanently which allows them to continue to move deeper and deeper into the tissue.
Once the particules get to the inside of the cartilage, they stimulate the cells to start producing proteoglycans, which are the building blocks for cartilage and other connective tissue. It also promotes cell growth and prevents cell death.
In studies on rats, it showed the joints sustained therapeutic effect for about 30 days. This could mean great success for people because joints can only be given injections biweekly to monthly. Joints that were injected with IGF-1 showed reduction in joint inflammation and bone spur formation.
Share this exciting news with your family and friends. This could be the breakthrough that many people have been hoping and praying for.