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New Potential for Nanoparticles

Posted on March 28, 2019

Researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University have made strides in creating a new way to treat osteoarthritis.

This new method helps to deliver proteins to damaged joints using nanoparticles. The researchers hope that their approach will help to regenerate damaged cartilage in patients affected by osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that affects more 31 million Americans.

Osteoarthritis, also known as OA, is a common joint condition that develops when cartilage in the joint breaks down, leaving bones to rub against one another. When this occurs, the result is pain, inflammation, loss of use of the joint and bone damage.

“Osteoarthritis can be very painful, and if it is left untreated, it could make people less mobile over time,” said Dr. Joel Singer, a New York personal cell physician.

OA is often associated with general “wear and tear” of the joints, but the damage goes beyond the joint itself and affects the cartilage, joint lining, ligaments and bone, too.

“For years, researchers believed the problem was the joint itself,” Singer said.

While osteoarthritis can develop at any age, it is most frequently found in the middle-aged and elderly. And, as the American population ages, the occurrence of osteoarthritis is increasing.

Conventional treatments for osteoarthritis include the use of anti-inflammatories, pain relievers and steroid shots. Advanced cases of OA may require surgical replacement of the affected joint.

None of the conventional treatments available for OA can regenerate damaged or missing cartilage.

Other osteoarthritis research projects have facilitated the repair or regeneration of damaged cartilage tissue using particular proteins known as growth factors, but these proteins can break down quickly, and high doses of these proteins must be used for patients to see a therapeutic benefit.

Other clinical research studies have shown that there are negative impacts of using high doses of growth factors for long periods, too, such as uncontrolled tissue formation and increased inflammation.

Those working on the Texas A&M study sought to regenerate damaged tissue and overcome the drawback of using growth factors for long periods.

Using two-dimensional (2D) mineral nanoparticles, the researchers were able to deliver growth factors to damaged cartilage. These particles have a high surface area as well as dual-charged characteristics that allow easier electrostatic attraction and attachment of growth factors.

The Texas researchers hope that using these nanoparticles can help to send growth factors to awaken the mesenchymal stem cells that are sleeping near areas of damaged cartilage.

Mesenchymal stem cells can differentiate into bone, muscle, ligaments, cartilage and other connective tissues.

Stem cells are fundamental building blocks of the body with the power to differentiate into other cell types and can also regenerate without limit. When the body suffers an injury, illness or disease, the cells wake up and begin repair. After completing repairs, the cells go back to sleep in nearby tissues. Growth factors trigger the cells to “turn on” when needed and get to work.

Researchers found that their growth factor delivery improved how stem cells differentiated into cartilage and reduced the risks of growth factor concentration.

The researchers also believe their delivery method could reduce the costs of treating osteoarthritis.

The Texas A&M study was supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Source: Texas A&M University. “New therapeutic approach to treating osteoarthritis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2019.

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