Artificial: Tests on small rodents and on human cells have yielded promising results for people suffering from diseases such as arthritis and chondromalacia patella — a wear and tear on the knee joint that leads to severe pain. The study carried out at the University of Oklahoma (USA) presented a new approach to the treatment of wear: an artificial lubricant inspired by the synovial fluid – the fluid inside the joints – was developed.
Thus, knees with painful arthritis can be treated with injections of lubricating fluid, which mimics the natural version found in joints. This fluid allows damaged joints to repair themselves. The rats in the experiment increased the regeneration of cartilage with osteoarthritis — a result of wear and tear related to aging — after applying the treatment.
Joint Diseases and Treatments
Cartilages are cartilaginous connective tissues that cover the ends of bones. Arthritis causes pieces of tissue within the joint to separate from the main cartilage. There is surgery done to remove debris from the knee and smooth the remaining cartilage, but, according to the study team, it usually doesn’t work very well. Other experimental treatments involve injecting stem cells taken from the person.
How to repair joints
Chuanbin Mao’s team at the University of Oklahoma studied healthy joint fluid, which contains a large molecule called a lubrication complex—composed of hyaluronic acid with lubricin and fat. This fluid binds to water molecules and cartilage, creating a watery layer on top of the cartilage, which reduces friction during joint movement.
Then they created an artificial version of the lubrication complex by binding another molecule, called PAMPS, and another lipid to hyaluronic acid. When it was applied to pieces of human cartilage in laboratory tests, it was able to reduce friction.
In the case of the studied rats, they had early arthritis in the leg joints. After eight weeks of treatment, her joints were almost normal when analyzed under a microscope. “The cartilage seemed to have grown back,” Mao told New Scientist. And he added: “We found that lubrication can help tissue regeneration – this is something new.”
Now, the team must test the artificial fluid in larger animals, with joints more similar to humans. But until the injections are ready for use in humans, it could take a few years.