Saturday, September 20, 2014

Discovery of a new protein to aid arthritis treatment

To offer a better treatment option for arthritis patients, researchers have found that a small protein appears to protect against bone loss that often accompanies arthritis. The researchers are now interested to see if Glucocorticoid-induced leucine zipper (GILZ), which is produced naturally in the body, can prevent arthritis from developing in the face of inflammation.

Arthritis as well as ageing prompt the body to make more fat than bone. ‘We have early evidence that GILZ might one day offer a better treatment option for arthritis patients than widely used synthetic glucocorticoids, which actually increase bone loss,’ said Xingming Shi, a bone biologist at the Georgia Regents University in the US. Directly over-expressing the protein appears to better target sources of bone loss and inflammation and avoid the serious side effects associated with glucocorticoid treatment.

For this study, the focus was tumour necrosis factor alpha, a pro-inflammatory cytokine (small protein) that helps regulate immune cells and is a major player in arthritis. To look specifically at the impact on bone loss, the researchers crossed mice bred to over-express tumour necrosis factor alpha throughout the body with mice that over-expressed GILZ in stem cells.

‘While the mice that over-expressed only tumour necrosis factor alpha quickly developed arthritis along with significant bone and weight loss, those that also over-expressed GILZ had significantly less bone loss,’ Shi said. Their findings are scheduled to be presented at The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2014 Annual Meeting during Sep 12-15 at Houston in the US.

How arthritis pain different from other pains?

Joint pain is the characteristic feature of arthritis. But this symptom often is ignored initially because people mistake joint pain as a sign of overexertion or old age. They either pop a painkiller or apply some balm, spray to get temporary relief. Ignoring joint pain due to arthritis can lead to complications and can further worsen your condition. Here are some signs that can help you to differentiate general joint pain from pain due to arthritis.

1. Stiffness in morning: One of the hallmark signs of early onset of arthritis is morning joint stiffness that lasts for 30 minutes to one hour. Initially stiffness decreases with increased movement as the day progresses. But as the condition progresses, stiffness lasts for a longer time with increased period of inactivity.

2. Minor tenderness and joint swelling: Inflammation is a characteristic feature of arthritis. Inflammation causes the joints to become tender. Mild swelling is seen around the affected joint which subsides as the inflammation reduces.

3. Pain on touching: Due to swelling and inflammation, the affected joint becomes painful. Pain can be excruciating, burning or radiating. Often the swollen joints may turn sensitive and start paining with a mere touch.

4. Reduced range of movement (ROM): Every joint can be moved to a defined limit through bending and stretching. This is called the range of movement that helps us to perform our daily activities. In early stages of arthritis, this range of motion gets affected. Due to stiffness and swelling, you may find it difficult to bend or straighten your joints normally for performing daily tasks. The ROM may be reduced for one or more joints.

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