September 12, 2011

Commonly Used Drug Could Prevent Arthritis

(Ivanhoe Newswire)--- By the year 2030, an estimated 67 million people will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. But a commonly used drug may be able to prevent arthritis from happening to you.

Many individuals develop arthritis from severe joint injuries. Young people are especially prone to these joint injuries because they are so active playing sports, or even skiing; activities that can cause damage to ligaments. A new study from MIT suggests that a drug that is used today to treat inflammatory diseases may also be able to prevent osteoarthritis from ever developing; which is good news for young athletes.

"In essence, it's repurposing an existing drug," Alan Grodzinsky, senior author of the study, was quoted saying.

Grodzinsky, who is a professor of biological, mechanical and electrical engineering, and the director of MIT's Center for Biomedical Engineering and his colleagues, reported their findings in the September 2nd issue of the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.

In most cases when a person sustains a joint injury, they are treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to reduce pain. They may also have to undergo surgery depending on the severity of the injury.

This study tested the effects of glucocorticoids--steroids that help reduce pain and swelling in arthritic joints. Glucocorticoids have been given to the elderly to treat rheumatoid arthritis for years.

Researchers took human and cattle cartilage tissue and damaged it; afterwards, the researchers flooded the tissue with cytokines which are proteins that trigger inflammation. Cytokines are typically released after a joint injury and accelerate the breakdown of cartilage.

Researchers found that in the damaged tissue that was treated immediately with the glucocorticoid, dexamethasone, cartilage breakdown was halted. Another good thing about this drug is that it also worked when given a day or two after the injury. This is an important fact because many people do not see the doctor right away after an injury.

At this time, researchers don´t know if dexamethasone could actually reverse previous cartilage damage, but plan to test this theory, and also the drug's potential protective effects, in future studies.

SOURCES: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. September 2, 2011 and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases