Scientists Develop More Effective Osteoarthritis Lubricant

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Massachusetts researchers have developed a new osteoarthritis treatment they say is more effective than lubricants currently in use. The new lubricant has the potential for relief that lasts significantly longer than current injectable medications.

The new product is a synthetic synovial fluid, according to Medical News Today. This clear lubricating fluid resides in the cavities of many human joints.

Staff members from Boston University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School made up the research team. Their findings appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects an estimated 26.9 million U.S. adults. More than a third of those older than 65 suffer from it. Its most common targets are the knees, hips, hands, and spine.

Osteoarthritis has no cure. Doctors focus on reducing pain and maintaining patient mobility. According to the Mayo Clinic, current treatments include medications, therapy, injections, and surgery.

Injections fall into one of two types: cortisone shots and lubricating injections. Doctors reserve surgery for cases in which conservative treatments aren't effective. Surgery can involve realigning bones or replacing joints.

The new lubricant is a polymer developed during an earlier study. The researchers noted its slippery feel and decided to investigate it as a possible osteoarthritis treatment.

Current injected synovial supplements offer patients temporary relief from discomfort. They don't provide enough lubrication to halt further breakdown of the cartilage that cushions joints, the scientists say. Their unique polymer accomplishes both benefits.

Some of the polymer's properties resemble those of natural polysaccharides, the large compounds that serve as the links in chains of sugar molecules. Since the lubricant's large size keeps it from seeping out of the arthritic joint, it provides longer-lasting protection against damage than current injectables do.

I have osteoarthritis in both knees. After a surgery to repair a torn meniscus in one, my discomfort got noticeably worse. MRI images revealed that the osteoarthritis in that knee had advanced quickly.

Because I take an immunosuppressant medication for Crohn's disease, the orthopedic surgeon wanted to avoid joint replacement. In the next two years, I had four sets of injections of synovial supplements. Each set consisted of three injections spaced a week apart. The last two sets treated both knees.

The first three sets of injections achieved significant pain relief for a couple of months. During the fourth set, the physician's assistant in two successive injections hit a nerve in the knee that had undergone meniscus surgery. The pain was so severe, I couldn't walk for hours.

With a lot of pain and no discernible arthritis relief from the last injections, I discontinued the shots. The new, more effective osteoarthritis lubricant offers a lot of hope to patients like me seeking to avoid joint replacement.

Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.

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