While there is no cure for arthritis to reverse the joint and cartilage damage, there are many treatment options available to alleviate the pain caused by the disease. The Arthritis Foundation suggested several ways to approach a treatment plan, including medication, therapies, diet and exercise. For more severe arthritis, joint replacement surgery may be a necessary option. However, researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Southern California just discovered a new molecule that might make injectable therapy an option.
Small but mighty molecule
The researchers dubbed the new, tiny molecule the "Regulator of Cartilage Growth and Differentiation" - or RCGD 423. The results of their study, which were recently published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, explained that this new molecule can enhance cartilage regeneration and decrease inflammation, which could be extremely beneficial for arthritis treatment.
The USC researchers tested the molecule in two ways. First, they applied it to joint cartilage cells in a lab setting and found that the cells increased at a rapid pace. Plus, they didn't die as often. They also injected RCGD 423 into into the knees of rat models with damaged cartilage and found that their injuries healed more effectively.
RCGD 423 can communicate with another molecule, the glycoprotein 130 receptor. When the receptor receives signals from RCGD 423, it stimulates cartilage regeneration by blocking the inflammation that causes the degeneration. As a result, the proliferation of the right cells and inhibition of cartilage breakdown lead to improved healing and long-term strength.
With such promising results, the researchers are already planning on running a clinical trial to test their new molecule as a proper treatment for osteoarthritis or juvenile arthritis. Their goal is to create an injectable therapy to treat moderate levels of the disease.
Denis Evseenko, M.D., PhD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the School of Medicine USC and research team leader, described his perception for the potential therapy: "It's not going to cure arthritis, but it will delay the progression of arthritis to the damaging stages when patients need joint replacements."
Evseenko also suggested he can also test a similar molecule, using RCGD 423 as a prototype for a new category of anti-inflammatory drugs. Thus, in the future, arthritis patients may be able to get a simple shot to treat their symptoms, avoiding joint replacement surgery altogether.