Two research groups have shown that shutting down a single gene can prevent cartilage destruction in a mouse model. Their findings are presented in the 31 March 2005 issue of Nature (Vol. 434, No. 7033, pp. 644-652).
During human osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints gradually breaks down. In particular, a key component of cartilage called aggrecan, which helps the tissue bear load and resist compression, is chewed up by enzymes of the ADAMTS or aggrecanase family.
Groups led by Elisabeth Morris and Amanda Fosang genetically engineered mice that lack a part of one such enzyme, ADAMTS5 (aggrecanase-2), and found that these animals are largely protected from cartilage destruction. The studies are the first to show that mutations in a single gene can halt cartilage degradation, and suggest that drugs designed to inhibit the human form of ADAMTS5 might help fight osteoarthritis.
Elisabeth Morris (Wyeth Research, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Amanda Fosang (Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Australia)
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(C) Nature press release.
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