Epigenetics refers to chemical modifications surrounding DNA that result in alterations of how that DNA is expressed. In English, changes in epigenetics can affect how much of a protein is produced by the underlying DNA. In a newly published study, from Newcastle in the United Kingdom, researchers discovered less methylation (an epigenetic chemical modification) at a specific spot along the DNA led to increased production of the destructive enzyme MMP-13. This all sounds very complicated and it is but this discovery may lead to a new class of drugs to treat osteoarthritis. Interesting and potentially very exciting news for millions of arthritis patients.
Allan Mishra, MD
"Scientists discover an epigenetic cause of osteoarthritis"
"New research in the FASEB Journal suggests that DNA methylation is responsible for switching on and off a gene that produces the MMP13 enzyme that is known to be important in the destruction of cartilage
Bethesda, MD—In what could be a breakthrough in the practical application of epigenetic science, U.K. scientists used human tissue samples to discover that those with osteoarthritis have a signature epigenetic change (DNA methylation) responsible for switching on and off a gene that produces a destructive enzyme called MMP13. This enzyme is known to play a role in the destruction of joint cartilage, making MMP13 and the epigenetic changes that lead to its increased levels, prime targets for osteoarthritis drug development. In addition to offering a new epigenetic path toward a cure for osteoarthritis, this research also helps show how epigenetic changes play a role in diseases outside of cancer. This finding was recently published online in the FASEB Journal."
"We've already seen how epigenetics has advanced our approach to cancer. Now we're seeing it with other diseases and even exercise." said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. "This study not only lays the groundwork for a new understanding of osteoarthritis, but also shows that the old 'either/or' nature v. nurture argument is outdated: epigenetics teaches us that nature (the daily wear and tear of joints) regulates nurture (the genes in our cartilage) to cause arthritis."
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