Osteoarthritis: Could researchers have found the key to prevention?

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A new study may have revealed a possible new prevention and treatment strategy for osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common and debilitating age-related diseases in the United States.
Researchers suggest that increasing levels of FoxO proteins could be one way to prevent and treat osteoarthritis.
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in San Diego, CA, reveal that proteins called FoxO are key for joint health.
By boosting the levels of these FoxO proteins, they believe that it might be possible to treat osteoarthritis, or even stop the disease from developing.
Senior study author Dr. Martin Lotz — from the Department of Molecular Medicine at TSRI — and his team recently reported their results in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Osteoarthritis, also referred to as degenerative joint disease, is estimated to affect more than 30 million adults in the United States, making it the most common type of arthritis.
The condition is characterized by a breakdown of cartilage, which is the tissue that cushions the joints of the bones. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the knee, hip, and hand joints.
In a previous study, Dr. Lotz and team found that FoxO levels in joint cartilage are reduced. For this latest study, the researchers sought to find out more about how FoxO proteins affect joint health.
The researchers reached their findings by studying mice that were lacking FoxO proteins in their joint cartilage. Compared with control mice, the scientists found that FoxO-deficient mice experienced degeneration of the joints at a significantly younger age.
What is more, the rodents with FoxO deficiency showed greater susceptibility to cartilage damage during a treadmill test, and they were also more likely to develop post-traumatic osteoarthritis due to knee injury.
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Upon further investigation, the scientists found that the FoxO-deficient mice showed abnormalities in a process called autophagy, which is a natural process by which cells get rid of any unwanted or damaged components in order to maintain their health and carry out any repairs.
FoxO deficiency also led to abnormalities in the processes that protect our cells against damage caused by free radicals.
Additionally, the study revealed that mice lacking FoxO proteins failed to produce the required levels of a protein called lubricin, which helps to protect joint cartilage against wear and tear.
The reduced production of lubricin was linked to a reduction in healthy cells in the “superficial zone,” which is a layer of cartilage in the knee joint.

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