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Gene Shows Close Ties to Arthritis

Mice lacking 'matrilin-3' suffered degeneration of cartilage, researchers say

MONDAY, July 24, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- While mutations in a gene called matrilin-3 have been linked with hand osteoarthritis and skeletal deformities in humans, researchers say the unmutated gene prevented the onset of osteoarthritis in adult mice, a new study has found.

Matrilin-3 plays a role in early bone development, controls bone mineral density in adults, and prevents osteoarthritis later in life, according to researchers at Rhode Island Hospital.

Reported in the August issue of the American Journal of Pathology, the study is the first to demonstrate that the absence of matrilin-3 leads to osteoarthritis, a joint disease characterized by deterioration of the cartilage.

Mice that lacked the gene had higher rates of osteoarthritis later in life than other mice, the study found.

"Clearly, there is a correlation between matrilin-3 and osteoarthritis. Potentially, we could use (the gene) as a diagnostic tool or to predict whether someone is likely to develop osteoarthritis," study senior author Qian Chen, director of cell and molecular biology and head of orthopaedic biology research at the hospital, said in a prepared statement.

This research has also led to the development of an animal model that can be used to study arthritis in real time, Chen said.

"In the long term, it helps us understand the mechanism of human osteoarthritis development. Very few molecules have even been associated with osteoarthritis, so this is a huge deal," Chen said.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about osteoarthritis.

SOURCE: Lifespan, news release, July 24, 2006
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