Osteoarthritis Research | Causes of Osteoarthritis

Our scientists are working on new osteoarthritis treatments and a cure

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent form of arthritis in America and worldwide with 27 million Americans affected.


OA is the degradation of joint tissues from the effects of “wear and tear”, injury or repetitive use causing pain, a grinding sensation and inflammation. The breakdown of joint tissues can cause the grinding of bone-on-bone, pain, bone damage, limited joint movement and deformities. However, this form of arthritis does not involve immune system.


Many osteoarthritis research scientists are studying cartilage, the lubricating surface in the joint. Work is being done to re-grow cartilage using stem cells treated with molecules to aid their growth.

Osteoarthritis Research | Osteoarthritis Treatment

The Arthritis National Research Foundation is committed to funding osteoarthritis research to better understand the causes of osteoarthritis. The research studies below are at the forefront in finding osteoarthritis treatment and understanding the causes so we can find a cure.

Get more osteoarthritis information with your free fact sheet!

Research Highlights

"Missing Link" to Repairing Joint Cartilage

Dr. Denis Evseenko at the University of Southern California is leading a study of stem cell researchers who tracked the early development of human joint cartilage.


Articular cartilage is a type of connective tissue that covers the surfaces of bones within synovial joints. Articular cartilage injury and the lack of cartilage regeneration often lead to osteoarthritis. Recent studies carried out by Dr. Evseenko and his lab and others have shown that stem/progenitor cells can partially repair damage cartilage, but more work is needed to increase the efficiency of this therapy.


Dr. Evseenko uses a novel approach based on his recent findings and the development of an essential model to test this and subsequent therapeutic methods. He will use a highly purified population of cartilage stem cells identified in his lab’s recent studies of normal human cartilage development.


During this second year of his ANRF-funded study, Dr. Evseenko will employ this novel approach in a large animal model of joint injury and apply a highly innovative robotic approach to assess the biomechanical properties of repaired joints, in addition to the routine microscopic study of the tissues.


Potential: The ultimate objective of the proposed project is to develop new therapeutic approaches for articular cartilage restoration, which in turn will reduce the morbidity from acute cartilage injuries and degenerative joint disease. This could be a biological roadmap for therapies to repair cartilage defects and damage from osteoarthritis and may eliminate the need for joint replacement surgery in the near future.


Click here to read more about this exciting research or click here to watch a video about the project!

Enzyme Study May Lead to New OA Treatment

Dr. Bhutani, as part of a special grant co-funded with the American Federation for Aging Research, is studying how osteoarthritis relates to aging.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis that affects approximately 27 million people in U.S. alone. Current treatments are, however, limited to pain management mainly because of a lack of understanding of the initiation and early stages of the disease. No disease-modifying OA drug is available. OA is marked by joint dysfunction and particularly cartilage degeneration caused by the native cartilage cells themselves.


Dr. Nidhi Bhutani’s recent studies at Stanford University have identified that normal and osteoarthritis (OA) cartilage cells from patients differ greatly in the function of a novel family of enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for modifying the DNA and such ‘epigenetic’ modifications affect widespread gene expression; therefore, these enzymes can be central regulators of the gene expression changes in OA.


Dr. Bhutani’s research will identify the genes that are regulated by these particular enzymes in OA cartilage to understand how they affect the initiation and progression of OA. Using mice that lack these enzymes, she will test how the absence of this regulator will modulate OA.


Potential: Dr. Bhutani will evaluate whether a pharmacological manipulation of these enzymes (and their targets) may be a new therapy in OA.

More notable osteoarthritis research studies funded by the Foundation

Mai Thuy Lam, PhD at Wayne State University is conducting studies to replace damaged meniscus tissues in knee joints with adult stem cell transplants.
Result: Adult stem cells isolated directly from the patient’s own fatty tissue can be used to create normal, healthy meniscus tissue for restoring joint function.


Quanjun Cui, MD at University of Virginia is studying the use of bone marrow stem cells which produce bone growth factors, utilizing bi-pedal animals that more closely imitate humans.
Result: These stem cells could be employed to regenerate damaged bone tissues.


Timothy Griffin, PhD at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City is studying how the onset of Osteoarthritis is caused by an increase in cartilage oxidation. His lab has shown that some exercise (like walking and jogging) is beneficial, increasing cartilage structural properties and resistance to OA, while other types of altered joint loads (like injury and obesity) are detrimental, increasing oxidation and hastening the breakdown of cartilage and development of OA.
Result: Understanding this process may lead to development of therapies to maintain healthy cartilage and prevent OA.


Shigeru Miyaki, PhD at Scripps Research Institute in LA Jolla, CA discovered a natural molecule in the body that regulates the growth of cartilage.
Result: The findings are exciting and could lead to new methods to repair and replace damaged cartilage in individuals suffering with OA.


Yingcui Li, PhD at Hartford University in Hartford, CT has developed a mouse model for the genetic analysis of Hyaluronan (a large molecule made by cartilage cells) and its function in osteoarthritis.
Potential: Her research provides insight into new targets and reveals new approaches for osteoarthritis treatment, including novel drug target or gene therapy.

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