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article imageCartilage cells can 'sense' injury

By Tim Sandle     Nov 18, 2014 in Science
Researchers are examining how human cartilage senses mechanical strain at the cellular level. It seems that a pair of channels that work together to cause cartilage cells to die off in droves. New research suggests that this mechanism can be blocked.
The halting of the mechanism that causes cartilage cell can be achieved by using a chemical found in tarantula venom. By using this chemical, scientists have successfully prevented cell death caused when cartilage cells detect mechanical strain.
Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue found in areas in the bodies of humans, including the joints between bones. Cartilage cells (called chondrocytes) are relatively complex and they have the ability to “sense” mechanical damage within the body. Joint injury is very common and it is triggered by trauma arising from falls, sports injuries, and infections. Injuries can damage cartilage cells, and even where the cells remain functional a problem here is that cartilage takes a long time to heal.
One mechanism which is at play when an injury occurs is with two mechanically-sensing ion channels, Piezo1 and Piezo2, which affects cartilage cells and causes damage. Scientists looked into whether inhibiting the Piezo channels could prevent cartilage cell death. To inhibit the channels, a small peptide found in tarantula venom, called GsMTx4, was used. It was found that this chemical successfully blocks Piezo1 channels.
In the new study the researchers used synthetic GsMTx4 to block both channels and protect joint tissue living in a Petri dish from cell death following compressive injury. From this starting point, the researchers plan to understand further how Piezo1 and Piezo2 interact with each other and to explore how the GsMTx4 inhibitor functions in a living animal.
It is hoped that the research will lead to new drug targets for protecting joints and preventing the pain associated with cartilage injuries.
The research findings have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a paper titled “Synergy between Piezo1 and Piezo2 channels confers high-strain mechanosensitivity to articular cartilage.”
More about Cartilage, Cells, Injury, Bone
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