A high-tech gel to prevent the damage that leads to arthritic knees is being tested. The treatment aims to encourage the growth of cartilage, the flexible tissue covering the ends of bones that acts as a shock absorber and allows the bones to glide over one another.
The problem is that cartilage has a poor blood supply, so when it is damaged or subject to wear and tear, it cannot properly repair itself.
The body sends in repair cells and blood growth factors and, over time, this develops into ‘fibrocartilage’, a form of scar tissue that is not as effective as the original tissue.
Fibrocartilage can quickly break down, which can lead to osteoarthritis when bones starts to rub on bone.
The new gel, called GelrinC, acts as a highly dense scaffold, working as a barrier to stop repair cells rapidly moving into the defect and forming fibrous repair tissue. This allows healthy, stronger cartilage to form more slowly instead.
Before the gel is injected, patients first undergo a microfracture, where multiple holes are drilled deep into the bone. This encourages the body to send in repair cells and growth factors.
Then, in a ten-minute procedure, the gel, which starts off as a liquid, is injected into the defective cartilage and exposed to ultraviolet light for 90 seconds.
This turns it into a semi-solid implant, which fits into the defect where the cartilage used to be and prevents the exposed bones rubbing against one another.
Over the next six to 12 months, the gel slowly degrades, is expelled from the body and replaced by newly forming cartilage.
The treatment is currently being tested in multi-centred trials at the University of Regensburg, Germany, and in Belgium and Israel. These involve more than 200 patients who have defects in their cartilage measuring up to 1in in diameter.
Patients will be monitored for two years to assess the short and long-term effects of the treatment compared with a placebo gel. Commenting on the research, Roger Hackney, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Leeds General Infirmary, said: ‘There are a number of ways such defects have been treated.
‘Microfracture produces fibrocartilage, not normal cartilage, and, although it is better than leaving the defect, it does not provide a long-lasting solution. The structure of cartilage is complex, with various layers of cells and fibres performing differing functions.
Over the next six to 12 months, the gel slowly degrades, is expelled from the body and replaced by newly forming cartilage
‘It will be interesting to see the new trial results.’
The manufacturer, Regentis, has already conducted a trial with the gel, involving 23 patients with damaged knee cartilage.
Meanwhile, strawberries may be a sweet new way to ease symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.
Eating a handful of berries a day can reduce inflammation and lower pain levels after 12 weeks, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients.
People who suffered from knee osteoarthritis and who were overweight — a major risk factor for the condition — were given 50g of freeze-dried strawberries to eat every day for 12 weeks.
The researchers found that levels of two key inflammatory compounds more than halved in those who were eating the berries, compared with no change in the control group.
The berry-eaters also reported feeling less pain.
The fruit is a rich source of polyphenols — compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects — which may help explain the benefits.
How a daily run boosts memory
Regular running won’t only benefit your waistline — it could also improve your cognitive health, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. examined the brain tissue of mice and found that those given running wheels in their cages for a week had different brain activity, as well as more neurons in their brains — making their reactions sharper and their memory better.
The scientists found this was not the case for mice that were more sedentary.
Lead author of the study Dr Henriette van Praag said the research further highlights the benefits of running. ‘It is a very good idea for the sake of the brain to be active,’ she says.
Regular running won’t only benefit your waistline — it could also improve your cognitive health, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports
Statins may protect you against sepsis
Taking statins could lower your risk of sepsis, according to a study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Researchers from the Aalborg University Hospital in Denmark analysed the medical records of almost 30,000 patients over 12 years. Nearly 10 per cent had developed a Staphylococcus aureus infection, which can lead to life-threatening sepsis.
People currently taking statins were 27 per cent less likely to have the infection, and the greater the dose, the less likely they were to acquire sepsis. Results suggest statins may have an important place in the prev
ention of sepsis, but further research is needed.
Alcohol jab for a faulty thyroid
An ethanol jab is being trialled as a treatment for thyroid nodules, a condition that affects as many as half of those over 60.
The nodules are abnormal overgrowths in the thyroid gland and are mostly benign.
However, in some cases, they cause too much of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) to be produced, leading to symptoms such as a rapid heart rate and anxiety.
Now, researchers at Assiut University in Egypt are using ethanol to shrink the nodules, reducing the production of the thyroid hormone and the symptoms.
Based on their findings during the trial, the researchers say the jab could reduce the size of cysts by almost 97 per cent.
An ethanol jab is being trialled as a treatment for thyroid nodules, a condition that affects as many as half of those over 60
Could a nasty shock raise risk of chronic fatigue?
Women who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are three times more at risk of the autoimmune condition lupus, a Harvard study has found.
The research, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, looked at the health records of more than 54,000 women over 24 years and found that having PTSD was a greater risk factor for lupus than anything else — including smoking.
Lupus is characterised by symptoms such as joint pain and fatigue. It’s thought PTSD leads to persistently high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which encourages the inflammation associated with lupus.
New way to treat pain caused by diabetes
Chronic nerve pain is a common complication of diabetes — now researchers at King’s College London have discovered why.
In a study on mice with diabetes, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, they found that overactivity of a protein molecule called HCN2 was responsible.
Blocking the activity of HCN2, or removing it from pain-sensitive nerve fibres, stopped the problem.
Neuropathy (nerve pain) affects one in four people with diabetes and can cause tingling and extreme sensitivity to touch in the feet and hands.
The researchers say this could provide the basis for the development of drugs to treat the condition.