British researchers are confident that they have found a way to block a molecular mechanism that activates arthritis, and they believe that the discovery may lead to new drugs for the disease. Using cultured cartilage cells, the researchers found that blocking the enzyme protein kinase R halted the production of enzymes that break down the connective tissue and allow proteoglycan to be lost.
"We found that treating cartilage cells with tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and C2-ceramide stimulated the arthritic process by a number of mechanisms," said lead investigator Sophie Gilbert, PhD. In particular, the scientists witnessed an increase in the release of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP-1 and -9), 2 enzymes involved in arthritis. Furthermore, an increased loss of proteoglycans was noted when cartilage cells were treated with TNF-alpha and C2-ceramide, as well as an increased cartilage cell death, according to the researchers. (These findings were published recently in Arthritis Research & Therapy.)