Cartilage that repairs itself? OHSU research reveals important clues
A strain of mice with the natural ability to repair damaged cartilage may one day lead to significant improvements in treatment of human knee, shoulder and hip injuries. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have discovered males from a strain of mice called MRL/MpJ have the innate ability to repair their own knee cartilage. "We think there is something special about these mice," said Jamie Fitzgerald, Ph.D., assistant professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation in the OHSU School of Medicine. "They have the ability to regenerate cartilage."
"Knee pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints that bring people to their doctor," Fitzgerald said. Cartilage is a key culprit. "Human cartilage injuries heal poorly and can lead to cartilage degeneration and osteoarthritis. This is an enormous clinical problem. It is estimated that one quarter of the adult population will have some kind of arthritis by 2020."
Knee injuries are a significant issue for professional athletes. The National Football League Charities provided the initial grant to launch the study. "Cartilage injuries can be career-ending for football players," Fitzgerald said.
Greg Oden missed his rookie season with the Blazers because of a cartilage injury. Although it's not his primary injury, champion golfer Tiger Woods was sidelined for two months this spring after surgery to deal with damaged cartilage in his left knee.
Fitzgerald and his fellow OHSU researchers Andrea Herzka, M.D., and Cathleen Rich studied knee injuries in 150 mice. Three months after the cartilage in their knees was damaged, male MRL mice had replaced a significant amount of the injured tissue with healthy cartilage. The results of their study were recently published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.
Chris Little, director of the Raymond Purves Bone and Joint Research Laboratories in Sydney, Australia, and one of the scientists involved in the project, says the finding is significant for human health. "The research we have published is an early, but important step in unraveling the important pathways that will facilitate development of new treatments."
The next step is understanding why these mice are able to restore the cartilage in their knees. "If we can identify what genes or proteins are necessary for cartilage to heal, we can work toward finding similar genes and proteins in humans," Herzka says. An actual treatment, however, "is many years away."
Fitzgerald became interested in studying the MRL strain of mice in 2005 while working at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. His work followed the observation that MRL mice had the ability to heal ear wounds without scarring, including replacing cartilage, hair follicles, skin and blood vessels. Little helped design the experiments and taught Fitzgerald and the OHSU team surgical techniques used in the effort.
- Amniotic membrane used to repair human articular cartilageWed, 23 Jun 2010, 9:33:50 EDT
- Growing cartilage from stem cellsWed, 21 Oct 2009, 9:24:01 EDT
- Transforming skin cells into cartilageMon, 10 Jan 2011, 14:28:00 EST
- Lubricating the knee cartilage after ACL repair may prevent osteoarthritisThu, 5 Aug 2010, 10:51:49 EDT
- Surgical repair of knee injuries does not decrease risk of osteoarthritisTue, 29 Jun 2010, 0:28:38 EDT
- Cartilage That Repairs Itself? New Research Reveals Important Cluesfrom Science DailyThu, 31 Jul 2008, 21:28:13 EDT
- Natural cartilage repair in mice studiedfrom UPIThu, 31 Jul 2008, 12:28:11 EDT
- Cartilage that repairs itself? New research reveals important cluesfrom Science CentricThu, 31 Jul 2008, 9:35:04 EDT
- Mouse Has Cartilage That Repairs Itselffrom Scientific BloggingWed, 30 Jul 2008, 18:35:15 EDT
- Cartilage that repairs itself? New research reveals important cluesfrom PhysorgWed, 30 Jul 2008, 17:42:09 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Which qubit my dear? New method to distinguish between neighbouring quantum bits
- Chemical probe confirms that body makes its own rotten egg gas, H2S, to benefit health
- Exposure to high pollution levels during pregnancy may increase risk of having child with autism
- IQ link to baby's weight gain in first month
- Pioneering breakthrough of chemical nanoengineering to design drugs controlled by light
- Even with defects, graphene is strongest material in the world
- Detection of the cosmic gamma ray horizon: Measures all the light in the universe since the Big Bang
- Genetic engineering alters mosquitoes' sense of smell
- Allosaurus fed more like a falcon than a crocodile, new study finds
- 'Popcorn' particle pathways promise better lithium-ion batteries