Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Research into gene therapy for osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, causes pain and suffering to horses and humans alike.
University of Florida researchers are developing a gene therapy for osteoarthritis in horses, in the hope that the technique will be applicable to people as well. The goal is to create a one-time treatment that gives long-term benefits.
The work involves the use of viruses, called adeno-associated viruses, or AAV, to deliver genetic material to the joints of horses, where it would produce a therapeutic protein directly at the site of the disease.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis. Current medications often only produce limited relief, require repeated administration and may interfere with healing. In contrast, this new gene therapy would require a one-time treatment and would not hinder the body’s healing processes.
Research suggests that the pain, joint inflammation and loss of cartilage associated with osteoarthritis are linked to a protein called interleukin-1. A therapeutic gene used to treat the arthritic joints produces a second protein that naturally counteracts the effects of interleukin-1, but that has not yet translated into effective treatments for patients because of difficulty getting high enough concentrations inside affected joints.
The UF researchers are devising a gene therapy approach that would allow continued production of therapeutic protein within the joints, directly at the disease site.
“We hope that this will be at least the first step in a therapy that will benefit both people and animals,” said Patrick Colahan, a board-certified equine surgeon in the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and co-investigator on the study. “It has the potential to help lots of different species, and from a veterinarian’s perspective, that’s what we’d like.”

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