If we could understand the molecular mechanisms that create and maintain articular cartilage, it might be possible to discover what goes wrong in our joints as we age and to find better treatments for arthritis. Embryologists have already discovered quite a bit about the earliest stages of joint formation. It is known, for example, that stripes of cells that form between developing bones subsequently develop into the permanent cartilage found in joints. Several members of a family of secreted proteins known as bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are expressed in these stripes of cells, implicating BMP signaling (the transmission of messages produced by BMPs binding to cell-surface receptors) in early joint development.
David Kingsley's team has been investigating whether BMPs are also involved in the later development and maintenance of joint cartilage. To do this, the researchers designed a genetic system that inactivates BMP signaling late in mouse embryonic development.
Most of the joints in this mouse strain formed normally. However, the mice rapidly developed severe arthritis after birth. By 7 days old, the expression of proteins normally found in cartilage was reduced, although at this stage the knee, for example, looked normal. By 7 weeks old (adulthood for mice), there were clear structural changes in the knee joints, and the articular carti
Contact: Paul Ocampo
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