Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common condition in humans and in their canine companions. An estimated 20% of dogs older than a year and 12% of people between 25 and 74 will develop the condition.

The causes and mechanisms are not well understood, however age and weight are considered major risk factors.

Injuries also lead to developing the disease. In fact one of the most common of all sports injuries in humans as well as dogs – a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament — is the leading cause of post traumatic osteoarthritis.

The mystery is why many, but not all, dogs and people with ACL injuries develop post traumatic osteoarthritis, medically referred to as PTOA. Now, a study of dogs at Cornell University’s veterinary school, published this month in Scientific Reports, offers clues to the potential for developing PTOA.

Researchers led by Dr. Heidi Reesink, assistant professor in equine health at Cornell, found that changes in the production of lubricin, a joint lubricating protein, could be a precursor to developing joint disease.

Lubricin is critical to smooth joint functioning. “We know that if a person or animal doesn’t make that protein, they will develop devastating joint disease affecting all the major weight-bearing joints,” says Reesink.

The prevailing view among veterinarians and physicians is that lubricin production declines after injury, leading to the development of PTOA. “The dogma in this field has been that lubricin decreases in joint disease,” Reesink said.

But the study found that in canine patients with a knee ligament tear lubricin increased and it was correlated with the development of osteoarthritis.

“This indicates that the presence of increased lubricin might actually be a biomarker for predicting future osteoarthritis,” said Reesink. “We also saw increased lubricin in dogs months to years after they injured their ACLs, suggesting that lubricin might be an indicator of ongoing joint instability.”

Increased lubricin could serve as a tipoff to clinicians to intervene with early treatments to ward off or slow the development of osteoarthritis, not just in dogs, but in people, too.

Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash


Jun 6, 2023

COVID Has Forever Changed How Vaccines Are Developed

The vaccine rollout may be progressing too slowly, but that there’s a vaccine so soon at all is a tribute to the single-focus of scientists and the biotech industry.

The way the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were developed “are revolutionary,” says Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.

In a wide-ranging interview with Steve Forbes and published on Forbes online, she said, “The platforms that have shown success — for example, the MRNA platform that has been used in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine — are revolutionary in that they will forever change how we think about developing new vaccines.”

Because of what scientists have learned, “When it comes to preventing the next pandemic — when it comes to even preventing the next iteration of Covid, because we know it’s constantly mutating and evolving — we are incredibly prepared.”

The breakdown in getting a vaccine, she says, is not the development. “We have seen that the science is not our barrier; that often it’s the bureaucracy, it’s the miscommunication and misalignment, and it’s the lack of resources.”

McMurry-Heath laments the lack of effective planning for the distribution of the vaccines and the therapeutics that have been shown effective in treating patients. “There’s no excuse for this. This is not rocket science. We’ve done mass vaccination programs before,” she said.

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The pandemic and how the nation responded to it have shown us, she says, that, “The things I think we’ve learned that are most impactful don’t even have to do with infectious diseases.”

Looking ahead, she told Forbes, it’s important the “high-touch-and-rapid-response approach” of the Food & Drug Administration continues. Another lesson is “that we need a new approach to clinical trials.”

“We need to look at our national clinical trial networks and ask ourselves, why are they not more easily mobilized for these massive public health concerns? And why is it so hard to get diverse patient populations through them?”

Says McMurry-Heath, “These are critically important questions that we are just starting to ask. But they’ll be very important, not just for infectious diseases, but for every disease out there that’s awaiting a cure.”

Photo by Macau Photo Agency