Medical researchers have reported findings demonstrating that injecting the protein lubricin into knee joints can dramatically reduce cartilage degeneration.
The discovery by scientists at Biomodels, a preclinical drug research organisation, and Lubris, a Massachusetts-based start-up company, could result in a new therapy for individuals at risk for osteoarthritis, researchers said.
The study, by Gregory D. Jay, MD, PhD, a professor of emergency medicine and biomedical engineering at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, was presented at the American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals Conference.
Chances of reversing osteoarthritis
In the study performed at Biomodels, the transection of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in untreated rats resulted in progressive degeneration of the knee joints and the articular cartilage. In rats treated with recombinant human lubricin, however, the degeneration was far less pronounced, indicating that treatment with lubricin can slow the development of osteoarthritis following traumatic joint injury, and possibly reverse the process, according to Dr Jay.
Dr Jay said the study shows that recombinant human lubricin, given as direct injections, significantly reduced the extent of cartilage degeneration in the knees of rats with post-traumatic osteoarthritis.
“If the research can be successfully translated into humans, it would represent the first successful attempt to protect cartilage and improve boundary lubrication in compromised joints, which could revolutionise both the treatment of osteoarthritis and traumatic joint injury,” he said.
Reducing need for joint-replacement surgery
Dr Jay’s ongoing research suggests that lubricin injections could delay or even prevent the onset of osteoarthritis and reduce or eliminate the need for costly joint-replacement surgery.
The findings are supportive of more than two decades of research by Dr. Jay and his team, in which they have shown that lubricin is a key component of human synovial fluid, itself a requirement for the normal function and lubrication of healthy joints.
Lubris, a Massachusetts-based start-up company, is developing lubricin commercially and holds exclusive worldwide patent rights to make, use and sell lubricin. The company is in the process of accessing capital markets to develop and commercialise lubricin products in various orthopaedic and other indications.
Biomodels, a preclinical drug research organisation founded in 1997, develops and conducts predictive translational studies for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, particularly in the areas of cancer, cancer supportive care, radiation therapy and inflammatory diseases.
The company, based in Watertown, MA, specialises in (non-GLP) efficacy studies that optimise dose, schedule and define mechanism of action. Biomodels also has expertise in modelling inflammatory diseases, including those conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Biomodels’ studies enable organisations to more readily identify lead compounds, decrease the time to a clinical trial and increase the chance of clinical success.