Achy Break Joints

Pop, lock, and… ouch!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Over twenty million people in the U-S suffer from joint pain, or osteoarthritis.

Our joints are cushioned by cartilage. As we age, this cushion wears down but doesn’t grow back. Current treatments manage the pain – but they don’t fix the underlying problem.

But Paula Hammond at MIT developed a way to bring the cartilage back. Snowflakes! Her team made snowflakes with proteins attached at the tips.

Not REAL snowflakes – flake-shaped polymers, or molecules made up of many repeating units. The proteins encourage cartilage growth. The scientists injected the snowflakes into arthritic rats to see if they could get them up and running again.

How did it go? The snowflake branches wiggled into the joints and stuck to the cartilage. This allowed the protein to trigger re-growth of cartilage! Restoring cartilage cushion is the first step to treating the cause of those achy joints.

Lucky rats! But what about OUR achy joints?

The researchers hope to develop the snowflake method into a better treatment for osteoarthritis.

It still can’t make me dub step. Not that I could before – but a girl can dream!