Advances in understanding the disease could lead to a paradigm shift.
For a long time, it was thought that osteoporosis was caused by the wear and tear of our later years. However, recent research is increasingly linking cartilage breakdown to inflammatory and metabolic activities within the joint. A major breakthrough in understanding this condition has been made by a team of scientists led by MedUni Vienna. Their findings, which offer a new perspective on diagnosis and treatment, were recently published in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.
The research was led by molecular geneticist Erwin Wagner of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Department of Dermatology at MedUni Vienna. Together with peers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, they focused on a protein known as c-Fos. This protein has long been under the scientific lens for its association with bone and cartilage disorders.
As the current research has also shown, cartilage samples from humans and mice with osteoarthritis (OA) have elevated levels of c-Fos. The protein is secreted by chondrocytes in response to OA signals and plays a role in protecting chondrocytes.
As part of their study, the research team has now discovered that c-Fos levels are associated with the severity of the OA pathway. For example, analyzes of animal models revealed that the absence of the protein in cartilage causes severe forms of joint disease.
Subsequently, the scientists were able to decipher the mechanism in the metabolism of chondrocytes that controls the production and accumulation of c-Fos. “Our findings are an important step towards developing targeted therapies in the form of drugs based on the newly discovered control mechanism of c-Fos expression in cartilage cells,” says study leader Erwin Wagner, highlighting the high importance of the research work.
More than 500 million people are affected worldwide
Osteoarthritis is the most common degenerative joint disease that can occur in various joints. According to WHO estimates, the knees are affected in more than 300 million people worldwide, and the hips in about 240 million people. Because of increasing risk factors such as obesity or an aging population, prevalence is expected to continue to rise.
The disease is associated with severe pain, significantly impairs the quality of life of sufferers, and can also lead to disability due to loss of joint function. Currently, therapeutic measures are mainly aimed at relieving pain, preserving joint function and mobility as much as possible, and reducing inflammation. The new insights now gained in the development and development of OA could bring about a paradigm shift in the treatment of chronic joint disease and must be confirmed by further research.
Reference: “c-Fos-controlled metabolic regeneration governs cartilage integrity in osteoarthritis” By Kazuhiko Matsuoka, Latifa Bakiri, Martin Belban, Stefan Tugel, Arvand Hashemi, Hao Yuan, Maria Kasper, Reinhard Weinhager, and Erwin F. Wagner, August 11, 2023 , Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.