If mice can repair their knee, can men be far behind

July 31st, 2008 - 4:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 31 (IANS) A mice strain which can repair its damaged cartilage may inspire improved treatment of human knee, shoulder and hip injuries. Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) researchers have discovered males from a mice strain MRL/MpJ with the innate ability to repair their own knee cartilage.

“We think there is something special about these mice,” said Jamie Fitzgerald, assistant professor of orthopaedics 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,” he said.

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 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 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 said.

These results were published recently in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.

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