11:21pm Saturday 18 November 2017

Sugar key to lowering osteoarthritis risk

Researchers have found that adding sugar to the saline solution used to wash out joints during orthopaedic surgery protects cartilage from damage and may even improve cartilage repair.

Patients who undergo surgery for joint problems are at increased risk of developing osteoarthritis because the operation can damage cartilage cells, experts say.

No cure

Osteoarthritis, which affects more than eight million people in the UK, occurs when cartilage at the ends of bones wears away, leading to stiff, painful joints.

There is no cure and treatment is limited to pain relief and joint replacement in severe cases.

Our findings could have major implications for tens of thousands of people who undergo arthroscopic surgery, such as footballers or other sports people who have damaged their cartilage. Or in fact anyone who’s had exploratory surgery for a sore or painful knee.

Dr Andrew Hall

Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh

Risk factors

Researchers say that the main risk factors for developing for the condition are ageing, obesity, and joint damage.

People who undergo surgery or arthroscopic procedures to treat joint problems – often because of a sports injury or unexplained joint pain – are at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis because surgery can damage the joint and tissue by destroying cartilage cells called chondrocytes.

Sugar solution

Work in animals showed that by adding sugar to the saline solution used to wash out the joint, they could protect the joints from this increased risk.

The researchers describe the solution as chondroprotective because it protects the cartilage cells against injury.

There is a worry that all these people are at risk of developing osteoarthritis from their surgery. But if surgeons can be persuaded to use this chondroprotective solution as standard that risk could be substantially reduced. It’s a cheap, simple solution that can protect the cartilage in the joint during arthroscopy and surgery.

Dr Andrew Hall

Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh


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