Exercise and physical therapy often are recommended to help people who have arthritis. Both can strengthen muscle -; a benefit that also can reduce joint pain. But building muscle mass and strength can take many months and be difficult in the face of joint pain from osteoarthritis, particularly for older people who are overweight. A new study in mice at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, however, suggests gene therapy one day may help those patients.
The research shows that gene therapy helped build significant muscle mass quickly and reduced the severity of osteoarthritis in the mice, even though they didn't exercise more. The therapy also staved off obesity, even when the mice ate an extremely high-fat diet.
The study is published online May 8 in the journal Science Advances.
Obesity is the most common risk factor for osteoarthritis. Being overweight can hinder a person's ability to exercise and benefit fully from physical therapy. We've identified here a way to use gene therapy to build muscle quickly. It had a profound effect in the mice and kept their weight in check, suggesting a similar approach may be effective against arthritis, particularly in cases of morbid obesity." Farshid Guilak, Ph.D., the Mildred B. Simon Research Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and director of research at Shriners Hospitals for Children - St. Louis
With the paper's first author, Ruhang Tang, PhD, a senior scientist in Guilak's laboratory, Guilak and his research team gave 8-week-old mice a single injection each of a virus carrying a gene called follistatin. The gene works to block the activity of a protein in muscle that keeps muscle growth in check. This enabled the mice to gain significant muscle mass without exercising more than usual. Related Stories
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