Scientists have developed a gel that delivers drugs directly to diseased joints

(ORDO NEWS) — Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive disease that affects the lives of more than 32 million Americans.

Post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA), the main subgroup of osteoarthritis that makes up 10% of diagnoses and disproportionately affects wounded military personnel, has no effective therapeutic protocols to slow or halt progression, with the exception of over-the-counter analgesics.

Post-traumatic osteoarthritis damages the articular cartilage and results in over US$3 billion in healthcare costs each year.

New York University researchers funded by the US National Science Foundation have identified the molecular mechanism and therapeutic burden to deliver pharmacological treatments directly to affected joints, effectively halting the onset and progression of post-traumatic osteoarthritis. The team published their results in the journal Biomaterials.

The researchers combined the compounds to create a porous gel that can reach and wrap around affected joints, reduce inflammation and promote regeneration. The substance, named E5C, is a protein-based gel that contains native, not synthetic, cartilage components that are non-toxic and biodegradable. The properties of E5C make it a viable candidate for injectable biomaterials.

“We have developed a unique protein-based gel capable of minimally invasive, sustained delivery of promising therapeutic agents in OA,” said researcher and co-author Gene Kim Montclar.

The investigators are planning follow-up studies to determine the effectiveness of higher doses of Atstrin in E5C gel for prophylactic and therapeutic applications.

Gebre Tessema, Program Director in NSF’s Materials Research Division, added: “Critical information on the topography of biomaterials has been obtained using an NSF-funded scanning electron microscope. This result is a clear demonstration of the vital impact of NSF-funded equipment on scientific research.”

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