Washington - Researchers have found that adding lubricin - a protein that our bodies naturally produce - to the fluid in our joints may reduce the risk of or even prevent osteoarthritis (OA).
The discoveries were made in part by studying the knees of mice, which genetically lack lubricin, causing an aggressive arthritis in spite of high levels of hyaluronic acid in the synovial fluid.
A lack of lubricin, resulting in higher friction, leads to cartilage cell death - even in the presence of high levels of hyaluronic acid, a viscous fluid that cushions the joints.
This discovery appears to challenge the practice of injecting hyaluronic acid alone into a patientâ€™s joints.
â€śThe lubricant is a protein, not hyaluronic acid, and currently, there are no disease-modifying treatments for osteoarthritis,â€ť Gregory D. Jay, M.D., Ph.D., of the department of emergency medicine, Rhode Island Hospital, said.
â€śPatients suffering from this degenerative joint disease either go through a total joint replacement, or are forced to live with pain every day.
â€śThis discovery, however, supports that adding a lubricin replacement to the fluid in joints may in fact prevent osteoarthritis in those who have a genetic predisposition to the illness, or who have suffered significant trauma to the joints,â€ť he said.
Jay said that his team is working to create a replacement for natural lubricin that could significantly improve the treatment options and ultimately prevention measures.
The study has been published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.