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Drs. Kapoor and Nakamura
UHN Arthritis research scientists Dr. Mohit Kapoor (L) and Dr. Akihiro Nakamura believe they’ve found a treatment that can block the harmful effects of osteoarthritis. (Photos: UHN)

Scientists at the Krembil Research Institute have developed a novel therapeutic treatment that has the potential to stop knee and spine osteoarthritis in its tracks.

A team led by Principal Investigator Dr. Mohit Kapoor, Arthritis Research Director at UHN, published the results today in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases in a paper titled "microRNA-181a-5p antisense oligonucleotides attenuate osteoarthritis in facet and knee joints."

"This is important because there are currently no drugs or treatments available to patients that can stop osteoarthritis," says Dr. Kapoor, a Krembil Senior Scientist.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It affects about five million Canadians and is characterized by a breakdown of the protective cartilage found in the body's spine, hand, knee and hip joints. 

"Current treatments for osteoarthritis address the symptoms, such as pain, but are unable to stop the progression of the disease," says Dr. Kapoor.

"The blocker we've tested is disease modifying. It has the ability to prevent further joint destruction in both knee and spine."

Utilizing a variety of experimental models, including animal models and human tissue samples, the Krembil team zeroed in on a biomarker, or molecule, called microRNA-181a-5p, which is believed to also cause the inflammation, cartilage destruction and collagen depletion.

Using a blocker consisting of Locked Nucleic Acid-Antisense Oligonucleotides (LNA-ASO), the team was able to stop destruction and protect the cartilage.

"The blocker is based on antisense technology," says Dr. Akihiro Nakamura, first author of the paper and a post-doctoral research fellow in the Kapoor Lab. "When you inject this blocker into the joints, it blocks the destructive activity caused by microRNA-181-5p and stops cartilage degeneration."

Read the full news release​.​

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