Suramin - a new hope for blocking osteoarthritic cartilage loss?

Disease - Osteoarthritis

Lead applicant - Dr Linda Troeberg

Organisation - University of East Anglia

Type of grant - Invited Research Award

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £217,496.41

Start date - 1 May 2018

Reference - 21776

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Osteoarthritis is a condition of the joints in which joint cartilage breakdown occurs. Proteins called metalloproteases are known to be involved in cartilage breakdown in osteoarthritis. In healthy cartilage, metalloproteases are kept in check by a natural protective inhibitor, called tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP-3). Levels of TIMP-3 are greatly reduced in patients with osteoarthritis. This research aims to develop a treatment, based on the drug suramin, that protects cartilage in osteoarthritis patients.

Why is this research important?

The researchers have previously found that cells in osteoarthritis cartilage take up TIMP-3 and destroy it. They have also identified that suramin prevents cells from taking up TIMP-3, meaning TIMP-3 can remain in the cartilage, which effectively stops cartilage breakdown from happening.

Suramin has historically been used to treat parasitic infections; however, it has side effects which are undesirable. The researchers aim to modify the drug to reduce its side effects, while retaining its protective activity. The project also aims to work with chemists to make and test various modified versions of the drug in mice with osteoarthritis. They will also test methods to keep the drug specifically in the joint, where its activity is needed.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Current treatment for osteoarthritis are limited to managing pain or replacing the joint, and better therapies are needed that directly treat the disease by stopping or reversing cartilage damage. If successful, this research might provide the basis for a future therapy for osteoarthritis, based on a strategy that stops cartilage damage.