Nano and micro join forces to treat osteoarthritis

Microparticles loaded with nanocrystals and a smart nanogel: UNIGE researchers are exploring new types of treatment that can protect joint cartilage – and even reverse the course of osteoarthritis.


There is at present no treatment for restoring osteoarthritis, which influences 80% of the populace more than 75 years old. The main plausibility is to give patients pharmaceutical to assuage the irritation and moderate the advance of this degenerative sickness. Yet, specialists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) who have been considering the issue have thought of another treatment that conveys already distinguished dynamic standards straightforwardly into the joint as nanocrystals embedded into microparticles.

The limited infusion of vectors may settle the malady as well as could even invert it!

Osteoarthritis is exceptionally basic in the elderly, and the way that the disease advances gradually very slowly in the improvement of new treatments. However, the results of clinical preliminaries can take years, a timescale that is regularly restrictive for pharmaceutical organizations setting their R&D needs – which is the reason the UNIGE scientists chose to research the issue, concentrating specifically on particles that had just been clinically tested.

Eric Allémann, full professor and recently appointed president of the pharmaceutical sciences section in UNIGE’s Science Faculty said, “Our strategy has been to take a second look at molecules that had been excluded by clinical trials due to their side effects. These compounds, which were administered orally, distributed and diffused throughout the body with only a very small fraction of it acting on the joint. But, by delivering the active principle exactly where we want to, we can drastically reduce the amount needed and avoid side effects.”

In more solid terms, the UNIGE scientists concentrated their endeavors on kartogenin – a molecule for recovering cartilage– embodied as nanocrystals in microparticles. With a width of 10 micrometers, these microparticles are comprised of biodegradable polymer and can be effortlessly regulated by intra-articular infusion. The treatment remains set up in the knee for a while, logically conveying the kartogenin that remakes the cartilage.

Pierre Maudens, post-doctoral fellow in the pharmaceutical sciences section said, “The aim isn’t only to stabilize the joint but also to make it fully functional again. The nanocrystals, which are wrapped in microparticles, can then be used to deliver the active principle over very extended periods without causing any inflammation – and even reversing the course of the disease, as suggested by the treatments conducted on mice.”

Scientists also examined the HA, which degrades very quickly due to the enzymes secreted by the body. By modifying its polymer chains so that it self-assembled in the form of nanoparticles rather than a gel at body temperature, the scientists were able to alter some of its characteristics.

Olivier Jordan, a senior lecturer in UNIGE’s pharmaceutical sciences section said, “It no longer behaves like a simple lubricant but more like a biocompatible ball-bearing that stays in place in the knee because enzymes secreted by the body don’t manage to degrade this new polymer system.

Rhe company which owns the patent filed on a discovery that has been dubbed HA Pearls. HA Pearls – in the form of nanoparticles – can act for several months in the joint, compared to only a handful of days for HA. All-in-all, it is a highly promising breakthrough that will significantly reduce the injections needed for treating osteoarthritis and thereby improve the quality of life of patients.

The UNIGE research has been the subject of a series of four articles in Drug Discovery Today, Small, the Journal of Controlled Release and Nanoscale. The work has also led to a new patent that is now being held by KYLYS, a UNIGE start-up.