A new study published online in ScienceNews reveals that a small molecule called “kartogenin” encourages regenerative cells to take on the characteristics of cells that make cartilage. Treatment with kartogenin allowed mice with arthritis-like cartilage damage in the knee regain the ability to use the joint without pain.
These findings provide new clues in the effort to find ways to regenerate cartilage and battle the degeneration that plagues individuals with osteoarthritis.
The new approach taps into mesenchymal regenerative cells, which naturally reside in cartilage and give rise to cells that make connective tissue. These include chondrocytes, the only cells in the body that manufacture cartilage. Kartogenin steers these cells to wake up and take on cartilage-making duties. This is an essential step in cartilage repair.
The theory behind this is that locally delivered therapy would target regenerative cells that are already in the joint. Study coauthor Kristen Johnson, a molecular biologist at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego, screened 22,000 compounds in cartilage and found that one, kartogenin, induced regenerative cells to take on the characteristics of chondrocytes.
Millions of people develop osteoarthritis as they reach old age. Cartilage serves as a shock absorber of our joints, but surgery to clean out torn cartilage often times has limited success. This losing battle leaves bone-on-bone friction, inflammation, and pain. Regenerating the cartilage-making process in the body has become a primary goal in orthopedic medicine, and we are delighted to see this science advance at such a rapid pace with more and more studies to support the power of regenerative medicine!