Maintaining a high level of adenosine ensures a steady supply of healthy chondrocytes—the cells that make and sustain cartilage. Researchers suggest it may delay the onset of osteoarthritis and the need for joint replacement procedures.

The study, led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and published in Nature Communications, found that maintaining high levels of adenosine in rats with damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is known to lead to osteoarthritis in humans, prevented the rats from developing the disease.

“We found that if adenosine levels decrease, or if the capacity to respond to adenosine diminishes, cartilage starts to degenerate,” says the study’s senior investigator, Bruce Cronstein, MD, in a media release from NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

“Our study suggests that diminished ATP and adenosine production are likely contributing factors to the development of osteoarthritis in aging individuals,” adds Cronstein, the Dr. Paul R. Esserman Professor of Medicine at NYU Langone.

The findings suggest that reductions in the number of cartilage-producing cells, and greater risk for osteoarthritis, may be driven not just by lower adenosine levels but also by lower levels of the protein on the surface of chondrocytes designed to receive and pass on adenosine’s signal.

According to Cronstein, future adenosine replacement therapies, if successful, can prevent or delay the need for joint replacement procedures.

“Because joints may have to be replaced again and again, if we can put off the need for joint replacement until later in life, odds are that patients will only have to have this done once,” he adds, in the release.

[Source(s): NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine, Science Daily]