Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating joint disease which is characterized by breakdown of the articular cartilage and bone changes. Bone changes include the thickening of the bone supporting the cartilage and excessive bone formation at the margins of the joint (osteophytes). Isolated cartilage defects are found in 61% of all arthroscopies e.g inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis can result in irreversible cartilage loss. If cartilage defects are left untreated, they tend to extend to the healthy cartilage and result in osteoarthritis. Cartilage regeneration in these patients will restore quality of life and revert disability. There are no disease modifying therapies to treat the cause of osteoarthritis. Current treatment consists of symptom management with non-steroidal-inflammatory drugs with patients eventually needing joint replacement. Hence, there is an urgent unmet need for a new therapeutic approach targeting and resolving the aetiology of the disease. Isolated cartilage defects are also very frequent and if left untreated they induce further cartilage loss. The current treatment for isolated cartilage defects includes microfracture and autologous chondrocyte implantation. The outcome of the former is only transient, and the latter involves the manufacturing of each individual patient’s cells, thereby leading to high production costs, small revenues and poor upscalability.
A protein, Agrin, which following a single application, supports robust and long-term cartilage regeneration, has been identified. The striking features include:
This molecule can be developed into an effective therapy that can cure the primary cause of osteoarthritis compared to current treatments that only ameliorate late-stage symptoms.