Dr. Zhang – The role of Creb5 in aging and osteoarthritic joints

Dr. Zhang – The role of Creb5 in aging and osteoarthritic joints

Dr. Chenghai Zhang, a 2021 ANRF research grant recipient, is an instructor in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical where his research is focused on cartilage, bone and joint development and related disorders and he has identified a key protein, Creb5, necessary to produce fluid used to lubricate joints. Understanding this protein’s exact role in the process of degradation supports establishing whether supplementing this protein could be used as a treatment for osteoarthritis.

In osteoarthritis and aging, articular cartilage begins to break down and bones end up rubbing against each other, causing inflammation, pain and joint stiffness. Osteoarthritis, affecting more than 30 million American adults over the age of 25, is the most common form of arthritis and a hallmark of both aging joints and osteoarthritic joints is decreased production of lubricin.

Worldwide, musculoskeletal conditions are the leading contributing factor to disability. Cartilage helps absorb the shock of movement and allows bones to glide over each other. Articular cartilage is the smooth white tissue that covers the ends of bones where they come together to form joints. In order to reduce friction as the bones in joints move over one another the articular cartilage needs to be well lubricated. Chondrocytes are the only cells found in healthy cartilage, part of their function is the production of collagen and lubricin. Lubricin is a substance necessary for proper joint lubrication and for the maintenance of articular cartilage.

As an ANRF scholar, Dr. Zhang continues to work toward defining how this protein regulates joint formation in embryos and the role it has in regulating the formation, growth and degradation of articular cartilage during aging and in osteoarthritis conditions. As his research continues, he hopes to establish whether supplementing Creb5 can protect articular cartilage degradation during the progression of aging/osteoarthritis or restore articular cartilage in surgery induced osteoarthritis.


“The long-term goal of my research is to understand the developmental mechanism of synovial joint/cartilage formation and to provide the basis to develop novel therapies to slow down or prevent the progression of human osteoarthritis.”

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. There are several ways to support research through the ANRF. Find out more and donate today.

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