If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, your doctor might have advised on exercise, physical therapy, weight loss, and a low fat diet. While all of these are pivotal in relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis, researchers have discovered a new therapy that may prove more effective in relieving symptoms and lowering your risk of the disease: Gene therapy.
Gene therapy is an experimental treatment which injects genes into a patient’s cells to alter how the body responds to certain diseases or to prevent certain diseases from developing. The researchers used mice diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and found that gene therapy helped to build significant muscle mass rapidly and lowered the severity of osteoarthritis.
Furthermore, gene therapy also reversed obesity – a common risk factor of osteoarthritis – in mice even without exercise and while continuing a high-fat diet. Injecting the gene called follistatin into the mice also reduced damage to the cartilage, improved blood flow to the joints, reduced inflammation around the joints, and increased the number of proteins in the joints.
This sounds like good news for patients with osteoarthritis, especially the aged, since simply injecting genes into one’s cells could reverse symptoms and lower the risk of the disease. But not so fast! The experiments were done in mice. We have to see if it pans out in humans and is safe.