Molecular biologists from the United States created an artificial analogue of synovial fluid that disappears from the joints during the development of arthritis and gout and began to test it in experiments on dogs. It will save millions of people from unbearable pain, scientists write in the journal.
“When the body does not produce enough of this lubricant, the joints begin to touch each other, which over time leads to the development of osteoarthritis. Now we are conducting clinical trials of our fluid in dogs, and when we complete them, this will open the way for its veterinary use and experiments on volunteers “, Said David Putnam of Cornell University in Ithaca (USA).
Approximately one in fifteen people on Earth suffers from various forms of arthritis – a collection of heterogeneous degenerative joint diseases. Their development leads to the fact that the cartilage of the contacting bones is irreversibly damaged and deformed, as a result of which a person begins to constantly experience almost unbearable pain.
As a rule, arthritis occurs due to the fact that the body begins to experience problems with the production of synovial fluid – a special “lubricant” that nourishes the cartilage and helps them slip when making movements. Reducing its number or changing the composition leads to the destruction of flexible joints and the fact that the bones begin to touch each other.
The reasons for this can be very different – various fractures, other bone injuries, as well as inflammation caused by excessively high activity of the immune system. Why they develop, scientists do not yet know why effective medicines for arthritis, as well as gout, still do not exist.
All this makes physicians and biologists look for alternative ways to combat joint degeneration, including creating various compounds that are similar in properties to synovial fluid and can inhibit the destruction of cartilage. Today, for example, injections of hyaluronic acid, one of the main components of synovial fluid, are used for these purposes.
Such injections, according to Putnam, reduce pain during periods of rest, but they do not help patients walk and run normally since the hyaluronic lubricant clings poorly to cartilage with a rapid movement of the joints. In the natural synovial fluid, another substance solves this problem, the lubricin protein, the analogues of which scientists could not create.
American molecular biologists have solved this problem by synthesizing a special liquid polymer with an extremely simple structure, but at the same time able to mimic all the properties and functions of lubricin.
This substance, as scientists note, consists of two types of units – polyacrylic acid and polyethylene glycol, which give the artificial synovial fluid the ability to retain water in itself, “cling” to the surface of the cartilage and resist compression. In general, it is similar in structure to protein molecules, but it is many times simpler and cheaper to produce.
Having tested the performance of this lubricant on samples of cartilage of cows and other domestic animals, scientists conducted its first field tests, pumping it into the knee joints of several dogs suffering from arthritis.
As Putnam and his colleague’s hope, these experiments will end successfully in the very near future. This will allow the use of their synthetic analogue of lubricin in veterinary medicine and will open the way for clinical trials on volunteers.