Osteoarthritis: some hints

sources: Orthopaedic Research Society and PR Newswire

According to WikipediaOsteoarthritis (OA) is a type of joint disease that results from breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. The most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. Initially, symptoms may occur only following exercise, but over time may become constant. Other symptoms may include joint swelling, decreased range of motion, and when the back is affected weakness or numbness of the arms and legs. The most commonly involved joints are those near the ends of the fingers, at the base of the thumb, neck, lower back, knee, and hips. Joints on one side of the body are often more affected than those on the other. Usually the symptoms come on over years. It can affect work and normal daily activities. Unlike other types of arthritis, only the joints are typically affected.

OAOA affects the entire joint, progressively destroying the articular cartilage, including damage to the bone. Patients suffering from OA have decreased mobility as the disease progresses, eventually requiring a joint replacement since cartilage does not heal or regenerate. According to a 2010 Cleveland Clinic study, OA is the most prevalent form of arthritis in the United States, affecting more than 70% of adults between 55 and 78 years of age (that is, millions of people).

My father was in major pain from his osteoarthritis,” explains Riccardo Gottardi, a scientist at the University of Pittsburgh supported by a Ri.MED Foundation fellowship.  “He was in so much pain that he had to undergo a double hip replacement followed by a knee replacement soon afterwards. I could see the debilitating and disabling effects the disease had on him, as he was restricted in his mobility and never fully recovered even after surgery. This was very different from the person that I knew, who had always been active and never shied away from long hours of work in his life – he just could not do it anymore.

For scientists like Gottardi, a key obstacle in understanding the mechanisms of osteoarthritis and finding drugs that could heal cartilage, is that cartilage does not exist separately from the rest of the body. Cartilage interacts with other tissues of the joint, especially with bone. Bone and cartilage strongly influence each other and this needs to be taken into account when developing new drugs and therapies.

cartilageGottardi and a team of researchers at the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering, led by Dr. Rocky Tuan, have developed a new generation system to produce engineered cartilage, bone and vasculature, organized in the same manner as they are found in the human joint.  This system is able to produce a high number of identical composite tissues starting from human cells. The team will use this system to study the interactions of cartilage with vascularized bone to identify potential treatments for osteoarthritis. The team’s research has two main objectives: to help understand how cartilage interacts with the other joint tissues, especially bone; and to help develop new effective treatments that could stop or even reverse the disease.  Their patent pending system is the first of its kind, and offers a number of advantages including the use of human cells that replicate native tissues. This system more closely matches the effects on humans than standard animal testing could achieve.

The team of scientists is further developing their system to produce tissues composed of more and different cell types that could better replicate the human joint. They have also started a number of collaborations with other research groups and companies that are interested in using the system to investigate other joint diseases and to test their product. “After seeing what my father went through,” says Gottardi, “I decided that I did not want to just watch by working on diagnostics, but rather, I wanted to be able to do something about osteoarthritis and contribute to the improvement of current treatment options.

Gottardi’s work was recently presented at the Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society. Founded in 1954, the Orthopaedic Research Society strives to be the world’s leading forum for the dissemination of new musculoskeletal research findings.

the Knee Bursae: some hints

The bursae of the knee can be defined in a very simple way: they are fluid sacs, or synovial pockets. This second definition comes from the sinovial fluid that fills them.

Synovial fluid is made of hyaluronic acid and lubricin, proteinases and collagenases. Its main functions are reducing friction by lubricating the joint, absorbing shocks and properly “feeding” joint cartilage. In the case of the knee, the Knee Capsule encloses the Knee Cavity which is filled with synovial fluid. Knee Bursae surround and sometimes communicate with the Knee Cavity, as we can see in the picture.

Usually Knee Bursae are thin-walled and represent the weak point of the joint. At the same time, their presence is really important since they enlarge the joint space. They can be grouped according to:

  • their characterization as communicating and non-communicating bursae. A communicating bursa is when a bursa is located adjacent to a joint, thus having the synovial membrane in communication with the joint itself.
  • their location (frontal, lateral, medial).

In pathological conditions, such as excessive local friction, infection, arthritides or direct trauma, fluid and debris collect within the bursa or fluid extends into the bursa from the adjacent joint. As a consequence, the walls of the bursa thicken as the bursal inflammation becomes longstanding. The term bursitis refers to pathological enlargement of the bursa. Clinically, bursitis mimics several peripheral joint and muscle abnormalities.


<–prepatellar bursitis

          elbow bursitis–>



sources: Wikipedia and this website

the Meniscus: some hints

Medically speaking, the “cartilage” is actually known as the meniscus. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of fibrocartilage which is located at the peripheral aspect of the joint. The majority of the meniscus has no blood supply. For that reason, when damaged, the meniscus is unable to undergo the normal healing process that occurs in most of the rest of the body. In addition, with age, the meniscus begins to deteriorate, often developing degenerative tears. Typically, when the meniscus is damaged, the torn piece begins to move in an abnormal fashion inside the joint.

Because the space between the bones of the joint is very small, as the abnormally mobile piece of meniscal tissue (meniscal fragment) moves, it may become caught between the bones of the joint (femur and tibia). When this happens, the knee becomes painful, swollen, and difficult to move.

The meniscus has several functions:

  • Stability – As secondary stabilizers, the intact meniscii interact with the stabilizing function of the ligaments and are most effective when the surrounding ligaments are intact.
  • Lubrication and nutrition – The meniscii act as spacers between the femur and the tibia. By doing so, they prevent friction between these two bones and allow for the diffusion of the normal joint fluid and its nutrients into the tissue which covers the end of the bone. This tissue is known as articular cartilage. Maintenance of the integrity of the articular cartilage is critical to preventing the development of post-traumatic or degenerative arthritis.
  • Shock absorption – The biconcave C-shaped pieces of tissue known as meniscii (cartilage in non-medical terms) lower the stress applied to the articular cartilage, and thereby have a role in preventing the development of degenerative arthritis.

source: this website