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Proteins May Contribute to Degeneration of Cartilage Associated with Osteoarthritis

Galectins could be biomarkers for future OA treatment approaches

A PPM Brief

In the degeneration of cartilage that leads to osteoarthritis (OA), a network of carbohydrate-binding proteins, called galectins, plays an important role, according to ongoing research out of the Medical University of Vienna.1 In the OA disease process, the cartilage cells produce certain galectins that actually accelerate degeneration, according to the researchers. Importantly, while galectins play a role in cartilage growth during childhood, they do not do so in healthy adult cartilage.

Researchers have discovered that the quantity of galectin-8 found in cell samples corresponds greatly with an increased severity of cartilage degeneration. After its production, the cartilage cells release galectins that connect with the cell surfaces, where they cause inflammation and accelerate degradation of the cartilage tissue. Other galectins, which perform other functions such as immune response, cell migration, and autophagy, may also play an accelerating role.

Galectins could be biomarkers for future OA treatment approaches. (Source: 123RF)

Previous studies by the Vienna research group demonstrated the functional significance of glycobiology for the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis, including identification of galectin-1 and galectin-3 as inflammation accelerators. The aim of their most recent study has been to use this information to help develop new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of OA. Ideally, antagonists may be developed for these galectins that can prevent them from attaching to cell surfaces.

"Our approach in researching the role of glycobiology in osteoarthritis and other degenerative cartilage diseases is very new," explained lead researcher Stefan Tögel, from the Department of Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery at the MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, in a release.2 "Galectins may also be suitable as biomarkers, which will enable an early diagnosis through a blood test or with a sample of the synovial fluid."

Last updated on: January 10, 2019
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