Health Check: Osteoarthritis

Potentially groundbreaking research out of Rhode Island Hospital could someday revolutionize how we treat the most common form of arthritis. (WJAR)

Potentially groundbreaking research out of Rhode Island Hospital could someday revolutionize how we treat the most common form of arthritis.

"It is promising because it shows that there are these stem cells in cartilage that may be responsible for osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Chathuraka Jayasuriya, PhD, a researcher at Rhode Island Hospital and the lead author of a new study published in Scientific Reports.

Osteoarthritis affects more than 30 million Americans.

The idea that some of our own stem cells could actually be causing more harm than good came as a surprise to both Jayasuriya and his research partner.

"Because the original idea is that we would use those stem cells to repair cartilage," said Dr. Qian Chen, PhD.

Jayasuriya said the study is groundbreaking because they always thought that stem cells were good.

“This is the first evidence, as far as I'm aware of, that shows that stem cells in cartilage can have a negative role," Jayasuriya said.

Referring to research assistant, Jack Twomey-Kozak, a future medical student: “He’s a wrestler. He has a meniscus injury. He’s probably going to get arthritis,” said Jayasuriya. "But hopefully by then we'll have a better, we'll have some better tools to deal with the disease."

That's because if they can prove the stem cells themselves cause the disease, Jayasuriya says: "We can start to use that information to target specific genes--perhaps restore the cells back to their native form like before they were diseases or try to abolish completely."

And that’s what they’re working on new research in the lab now.

Chen said he is motivated by his mother who has arthritis. He said it may be pie in the sky, but here's what he thinks: "I really believe in the next ten to 20 years we should have the drugs on the market based on the studies we have."

For more on the research, click here.

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