PolyU develops targeted treatment for osteoarthritis pain

Research team at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University developed a new treatment and diagnosis technique for osteoarthritis pain, using the concept of targeted cancer therapy.

The new treatment utilize the concept of targeted cancer therapy, but instead of cancer cells it targets the protein that initiates pain signaling along the nervous system.

The imaging-guided nanoparticle photothermal therapy works when gold nanorods fused with antibodies are directed against the nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein that triggers the pain of the patients.

The nanorods can target the area where osteoarthritis pain is generated. The antibodies will then bind the NGF molecles to the photothermal nanoparticles of the nanorods, transferring light energy to heat and destroying the NGF protein.

“It is the first time the concept of targeted photothermal therapy for osteoarthritis pain via nanotechnology is being introduced,” said Yang Mo, principal investigator of the study.

Osteoarthritis is currently diagnosed by physical examination and with x-ray, MRI scanning and arthroscopy where necessary.

This new technique enables a new and accurate diagnostics approach – osteoarthritis pain imaging, as the nanorods heading to targeted injured joints can be tracked using photoacoustic imaging, a non-ivasive imaging modality.

The Lancet Commission on osteoarthritis estimated the illness has affected more than 500 million people worldwide. The World Health Organization also expects the prevalence of osteoarthritis to increase due to population aging and a rise in related factors such as obesity.

“Our molecular theranostics treatment, if it becomes clinically available, could bring the prospect of deferring the need for expensive joint replacement operations for years and greatly improve the quality of life of osteoarthritis patients,” according to another principal investigator Wen Chunyi.

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