'Smart' Cartilage Cells for Osteoarthritis Treatment


Smart biomaterials or bioartificial tissues that autonomously respond to biologic cues and drive a therapeutic or restorative response are promising technologies for treating both chronic and acute diseases.

By creating a new field called mechanogenetics, scientists from the University of Washington designed the genetically modified cartilage cells to release a drug used for osteoarthritis at the moment of mechanical stress.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, showed that programmed cartilage cells could respond to mechanical stress associated with movement and weight-bearing by secreting an interleukin-1 receptor antagonist drug, anakinra.

The scientists say the programmed cartilage cells that deliver the drug only when and where it is needed could reduce inflammation in arthritic joints as well as avoid side effects associated with long-term administration of a potent anti-inflammatory drug to the whole body.

This strategy could be an important step in creating the framework for what needs to be done in the future to program cells to deliver treatments in response to a variety of medical problems.

Reference: Nims RJ, et al. A synthetic mechanogenetic gene circuit for autonomous drug delivery in engineered tissue. Science Advances, 2021. http://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abd9858