Researchers discover Hedgehogs could play a role in treating osteoarthritis

Nov 17, 2009 By Matet Nebres

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have found a pharmacological approach to treating the disease. The study is published in the November 15 advance online edition of Nature Medicine.

"If used in patients this could be the first example of a treatment to prevent the degeneration of joints," said the study's principal investigator, Benjamin Alman, professor of surgery at the University of Toronto and head of orthopaedic surgery and senior scientist at SickKids. "It would be a true biological approach to attack the of osteoarthritis."

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of , is a painful and debilitating disease affecting over 200 million people worldwide. It occurs when the cartilage in the joints wear down over time. However, it is not a paediatric condition and SickKids researchers didn't set out to find a solution.

The scientists had actually been investigating the role a family of proteins, called Hedgehog, play in the development of cartilage tumours, when they stumbled upon a unexpected observation. They found that when Hedgehog proteins were activated in mice, the mice developed osteoarthritis.

Hedgehog proteins are known to play an important role in regulating chondrocytes, or cells that make up the joints or growth plates. Chondrocytes in joints or cartilage are smooth cells that are present for a lifetime. However, chondrocytes in growth plates (cells responsible for making people tall) grow, die off and make bone.

Results of this study indicate that in osteoarthritis, the cartilage joint chondrocytes behave more like growth plate chondrocytes. Patients and mice who had osteoarthritis also had a high level of Hedgehog. They also found if they increased the level of Hedgehog, mice developed . More importantly, they found when the was blocked either genetically or by using a blocking drug, they were able to reduce the amount of arthritis that developed.

"We may have found a very promising approach to blocking the amount of joint damage and slowing down the progression of the disease," said Alman. "It might prevent people from having to get joint replacements. They can lead active lives and reduce the pain and discomfort associated with the disease."

Provided by University of Toronto (news : web)

Explore further: Novel marker discovered for stem cells derived from human umbilical cord blood

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How movement lubricates bone joints

Dec 05, 2006

Taking a cue from machines that gently flex patients’ knees to help them recover faster from joint surgery, bioengineering researchers at UC San Diego have shown that sliding forces applied to cartilage surfaces ...

Growing Cartilage from Stem Cells

Oct 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Damaged knee joints might one day be repaired with cartilage grown from stem cells in a laboratory, based on research by Professor Kyriacos Athanasiou, chair of the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

12 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...