“Game-changing” arthritis research

Local News

Researchers at UR Medicine are looking for participants in a study they believe could change the way arthritis is treated.

Dr. Mike Maloney, the Chief of Sports Medicine at UR Medicine, discussed the research and its potential impact Thursday during News 8 at Sunrise.

“Arthritis is an incredibly disabling condition as we all know,” said Dr. Maloney. “It presently impacts approximately 40 million Americans. And if you look at the population progression over the next 20 years, it could go up to 80 million Americans will have the symptoms of arthritis.”

For those who have it, the condition can be summed up in one word – painful. “Arthritis is a term we use to kind of explain a lot of things, but in general, arthritis involves the joints,” explained Dr. Maloney. “So ARTH means joint, and ITIS is inflammation. And in a clinical setting, when the joint becomes inflamed, the cartilage in that joint starts to wear away. The bone behind the cartilage becomes exposed and as it sees the pressure that the cartilage would have, it starts to make bone spurs and creates inflammation in the joint. And that’s when the patients become symptomatic and limited.”

Dr. Maloney said current treatment for arthritis involves addressing the symptoms. “That’s the challenge. Once arthritis begins, we don’t have a way to stop it. And so everything that we do now, whether it’s medications or injections or physical therapy or the surgical options, are all focused on managing the symptoms of arthritis.”

The research being conducted by UR Medicine seeks to change this. “The condition itself is a progression of the cartilage as it wears away,” Dr. Maloney reiterated. “Our body does not have the ability to make healthy new cartilage. So this medication that we’re trialing is called Forteo, or parathyroid hormone. Forteo has been available as an FDA approved treatment for osteoporosis, which is a bone disease. Our Orthopedic Musculoskeletal Research Center at the University of Rochester was studying the effect of Forteo on bone and basically realized that not only does it have an impact on bone, it impacts the cartilage cells, which was a really unbelievable discovery. When we say impacts the cartilage cells, what it does is it actually has the ability to stop that progression of arthritis in the cartilage cells, and it actually was shown in the lab to reverse some of the cellular things that were happening in the degenerative process which really has never been demonstrated before. And if we’re able to prove that we can stop the progression of arthritis or potentially create a healthy joint once again, it’s a game changer.”

Researchers are looking for a specific group of people as part of the ongoing study. “The qualifications to get into the study are patients aged 40 to 70, who have knee arthritis,” Dr. Maloney said. “And though they present to me, for knee arthritis, the medication is given systemically, so their whole body will benefit from this.”

To participate in the study or learn more, visit arthritis.urmc.edu.

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