We Have Salamander-Like Ability to Regrow Cartilage

Humans Have Salamander-Like Ability to Regrow Cartilage in JointsDuke Clinical Research Institute Oct 2019

Here’s a promising development for one of the scourges of aging, osteoarthritis. Additionally, with EDS cartilage can be defective and deteriorate faster than the norm, so this could be very good news.

“Once cartilage is gone, it’s gone for good and there’s no replacement that we know of,” Luk said.

However…

Contrary to popular belief, cartilage in human joints can repair itself through a process similar to that used by creatures such as salamanders and zebrafish to regenerate limbs, researchers at Duke Health found.  

the researchers identified a mechanism for cartilage repair that appears to be more robust in ankle joints and less so in hips. The finding could potentially lead to treatments for osteoarthritis, the most common joint disorder in the world.

Kraus and colleagues, including lead author Ming-Feng Hsueh, Ph.D., devised a way to determine the age of proteins using internal molecular clocks integral to amino acids, which convert one form to another with predictable regularity.

Newly created proteins in tissue have few or no amino acid conversions; older proteins have many. Understanding this process enabled the researchers to use sensitive mass spectrometry to identify when key proteins in human cartilage, including collagens, were young, middle-aged or old.

They found that the age of cartilage largely depended on where it resided in the body.

Cartilage in

  • ankles is young,
  • it’s middle-aged in the knee and
  • old in the hips.

This would certainly explain why it’s our hips that seem to be the most commonly attacked by arthritis. I’ve heard some people complain of arthritis pain in their knees but never of anyone having arthritis in their ankles.

This correlation between the age of human cartilage and its location in the body aligns with how limb repair occurs in certain animals, which more readily regenerate at the furthest tips, including the ends of legs or tails.

The finding also helps explain why injuries to people’s knees and, especially, hips take a long time to recover and often develop into arthritis, while ankle injuries heal quicker and less often become severely arthritic.

molecules called microRNA regulate this process. Not surprisingly, these microRNAs are more active in animals that are known for limb, fin or tail repair, including salamanders, zebrafish, African fresh water fish and lizards.

These microRNAs are also found in humans — an evolutionary artifact that provides the capability in humans for joint tissue repair.

As in animals, microRNA activity varies significantly by its location: it was highest in ankles compared to knees and hips and higher in the top layer of cartilage compared to deeper layers of cartilage.

The researchers said microRNAs could be developed as medicines that might prevent, slow or reverse arthritis.

We believe this is a fundamental mechanism of repair that could be applied to many tissues, not just cartilage.

I think that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly an avenue worth exploring.

Other thoughts?

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