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New joint lubricant relieves symptoms of osteoarthritis

4th June 2013

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

A new joint lubricant has recently been developed by a group of researchers which is hoped to bring long-lasting pain relief to millions of people with osteoarthritis. The symptoms of the condition often lead people to feel considerable pain when not using stair lifts and other mobility aids, but this new product could help relieve some of this pain.

The new joint lubricant was developed by a team of researchers that were led by Professor Mark W. Grinstaff, a biomedical engineer from Boston University, which they believe can significantly relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis and slow the progress of the disease.

The disease becomes most apparent in hip, knee, hand and other frequently used joints, where swelling and pain indicate the degradation of cartilage and synovial fluid, thus resulting in bones rubbing together. A lubricant can help limit damage to the cartilage and ease the pain of bone-on-bone abrasion.

Professor Mark W. Grinstaff believes that the best joint lubricant which is currently available is good at offering temporary relief from painful and stiff joints, but does not provide lubrication which is good enough to prevent further damage to the cartilage surfaces that cushion the joint. Professor Grinstaff enlisted the help of Harvard Medical School orthopedic surgeon Brian Snyder and a number of chemistry and engineering students at Boston University to help him develop a new synthetic polymer which can do both of these things.

This synthetic polymer was originally produced in 2012 as part of a different study, but this new study has made some significant findings in consideration of the aims of Professor Grinstaff's project. The polymer can be injected into joints to replace the synovial fluid and cartilage that has been worn away, thus relieving the painful symptoms as well as slowing the progress of osteoarthritis. Professor Grinstaff described his biopolymer as a "superior lubricant" which is more similar to naturally occurring synovial fluid than any other joint lubricant currently available. Its comparative large molecular size and weight also helps make it last longer than other joint lubricants; one injection can last for over 2 weeks in comparison to just 1 or 2 days.

Osteoarthritis affects around 200 million people worldwide and is a leading cause of disability in older people. The pain and swelling which characterise it lead many people to rely on chairs for the elderly to help them stand up and sit down, and although this new joint lubricant cannot cure osteoarthritis, it can make everyday life significantly more enjoyable and could give millions of people a more mobile future.

 

Image Credit: quinn.anya (flickr.com)