Potential Algae Treatment for Arthritis in the Works

Nearly 90 percent of people above 65 years of age are affected by arthritis to varying degrees. It is one of the most common chronic and degenerative diseases known to man and there is, unfortunately, no solid cure for it. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones loses its natural lubricating layer, causing the frictional force between the moving bones to damage them. This is often a highly painful situation and can result in acute inflammations. Most drugs marketed for arthritis only help manage the symptoms of it, and not help cure the disease itself. A team of scientists, however, is trying to challenge the norm to come up with a rather unlikely treatment for the problem.

Positive Early Study Results

Marcy Zenobi-Wong from ETHZ along with Katharina Maniura from Empa has teamed up with the Norwegian SINTEF in order to tackle arthritis with a solution generated from algae. The team has tried to recognize possible substances that could stop join degeneration and landed upon cuvie, a brown algae and its extracted polysaccharide alginate. The extract is very specific to the cartilage’s extracellular biomolecules. The team then managed to overhaul the extract chemically in order to investigate its reaction when exposed to different cell types. The alginate was modified using sulfate groups and added its solution to cell cultures. The team concluded that the alginate surface can drastically cut down oxidative stress on certain cell types, thereby helping prevent premature cellular death.

Long Way to Go

While showing mostly positive results, the team believes that a lot more research is required before they can proceed. So far, they have only tested the alginate sulfates on cell cultures and in vitro. The optimism in the current results could be used to further develop the materials to try and make them feasible in arthritis treatment.