Wash U St. Louis researchers receive $1.7 million award to develop new arthritis treatment via silk

Washington University in St. Louis researcher were awarded $1.7 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a new therapeutic treatment that can deliver disease-modifying compounds in a manner to delay the development of inflammation, joint degeneration and arthritis, the university announced.

Researchers will use silk micro-particles to deliver long-lasting therapeutic compounds, helping better alleviate the pain of inflammation and injury, according to the university article.

Biomedical Engineering Society President Lori Setton said, “We’re starting to see that many areas can’t be reached via oral drug delivery.”

“For example, synovial joint fluid in the knee is almost optimized to rapidly clear compounds out of the joint. So we’re trying to trick the joint into being a good host for the therapeutic drugs we are delivering,” she said in the article.

Setton is the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Setton’s lab is working on a new solution using silk to deliver two specific molecules that can inhibit NF-kB at the site of a fracture or injury in an effort to stave off long-term joint damage, according to the article.

“Silk naturally doesn’t interact with water, and, when you mix it with these molecules that also don’t interact with water, they bind to each other very strongly,” Setton said. “We believe these selective compounds are therapeutically effective, but we’ve never been able to get them to their target site. By delivering them with the silk, we hope to get large doses to the target site with low toxicity and to have them remain in that compartment for longer periods of time.”

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