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Exercise to prevent osteoarthritis cartilage damage

Friday 29th March 2019
Scientists discover exactly how exercise prevents cartilage from being damaged in study that could help osteoarthritis patients.
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Regular exercise helps to prevent the degradation of cartilage in those with osteoarthritis, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London.

Scientists have proved that mechanical forces exerted on cells in joints during exercise can minimise cartilage damage by stopping inflammatory molecules that cause the condition.

The benefits of exercise on the joints are down to the primary cilia that are present in living cells. Changes in the proteins that make up these cilia are triggered by physical activity.

This occurs when joints, such as the knee or hip, are squashed, triggering an anti-inflammatory response and the activation of a protein called HDAC6.

In the research, the scientists tested to see if drugs that blocked HDAC6 inhibited the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise and found that they did.

Conversely, other drugs were able to mimic the benefits of exercise, thus underlining the results of the study.

The biomarker for the level of inflammation was provided by changes to the length of the primary cilia.

They measure only a few 1,000ths of a millimetre, but even so, scientists were able to ascertain when they became longer and were therefore inflamed.

Su Fu, PhD student at Queen Mary University of London and study author, said: "We have known for some time that healthy exercise is good for you - now we know the process through which exercise prevents cartilage degradation."

Professor Martin Knight, lead researcher of the study, added that the results could help explain the anti-inflammatory effects of normal blood flow in arteries as a case for preventing a number of other conditions.

With more than three million people in the UK experiencing painful joints as a result of arthritis, it’s hoped that this latest study will help in the development of more effective treatments.

Written by Matthew Horton

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