Osteoarthritis--a degenerative joint disease that affects 21 million people in the U.S. and is the nation's leading cause of disability--had been attributed primarily to the gradual wear and tear of joint surfaces. More recently, scientists have discovered that inflammation sparked by the immune system also plays an important role in the worsening of the disease. However, trials of a drug aimed at blocking that joint inflammation have had limited success, primarily because the medication clears too rapidly from the joint.
"With this advance, we believe treatments could go from twice a week to perhaps twice a month. That would be a huge clinical gain."
Pratt School researchers, including BME Professors Lori Setton and Ashutosh Chilkoti, along with Pratt-Gardner Fellow Mohammed Shamji, have devised a new way to significantly prolong the effects of the anti-inflammatory, "interleukin-1 receptor antagonist" drug. The researchers found that the drug, which is a protein, could be improved by attaching a second protein that clumps together when injected into the body. The combined drug likewise would assemble into clusters, serving as "drug depots" that gradually release active drug particles. They expect the modified drug, which would be injected directly into arthritic joints, could last for several weeks rather than just the few hours the unmodified drug would last. By remaining at the site of disease, it also might cause fewer negative side effects. The work is supported by the Duke-Coulter Foundation Translational Research Partnership and the National Institutes of Health.