Animal research offers new insight into regenerative osteoarthritis therapy

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

Researchers have found a way of harnessing the regenerative abilities of certain animals to create a new means of treating osteoarthritis.

Scientists at the University of York, with funding from Arthritis Research UK, have adapted the capacity of animals such as newts to regenerate lost tissues and organs to develop an effective new stem cell treatment for this common form of arthritis.

“UK scientists have developed a way of using the same technique that animals use to regenerate lost body parts to create more effective stem cell treatments for osteoarthritis.“

Cells in newts change in response to injury through a process called dedifferentiation, which sees them return to a stem cell-like state before increasing in numbers to generate the specialised cells needed for new tissue formation.

This process does not occur naturally in humans, so the researchers recreated similar conditions in the laboratory by growing human cells as 3D aggregates. Pharmaceuticals were used to induce cell self-eating effects and stimulate dedifferentiation.

In doing so, it may be possible to rejuvenate cells from older people with osteoarthritis to repair worn or damaged cartilage, thus reducing pain.

Dr Paul Genever of the Arthritis Research UK Tissue Engineering Centre at the university's department of biology said: "The next stage is to find out more about the dedifferentiation process so that we can find the right treatment to encourage tissue repair in the damaged joint. That is our aim."

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