Research roundup: Eyeing a cure for osteoarthritis

September 2, 2021

New research from the University of Minnesota indicates a combination of two specific enzymatic inhibitors targeting synovial joint pain holds promise to not only reduce pain and inflammation, but to slow or even prevent progression of osteoarthritis (OA)—a degenerative disease affecting more than 32.5 million U.S. adults for which there is no cure. The condition is also common in horses, cats, and dogs. 

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in joints and manifests most frequently in the hips, hands, and knees. Treatment of OA typically focuses on pain relief, and there currently is no available therapy for the associated joint pathology and progressive cartilage damage.

But a College of Veterinary Medicine research team led by Alonso Guedes, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVAA, found recently that a therapy combining inhibitors of the enzymes cyclooxygenase (COX) and soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) in horses with synovial joint inflammation resulted in pain reduction—but also stopped cell death in the associated joint cartilage that secretes a form of joint lubricant called the cartilage matrix. The researchers’ results were published in August in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

Guedes and his team targeted knee synovitis—the result of inflamed connective tissue inside of the joint—in six horses in three ways: using just the sEH inhibitor, just the COX inhibitor, and using a combination of both. They found the combination of inhibitors as therapy reduced joint pain and lessened the breakdown of cartilage matrix associated with synovitis more effectively than inhibiting COX or sEH separately.

This is believed to be the first study to examine both the symptomatic and disease-modifying effects of COX and sEH inhibitors in the context of joint disease; that the therapies were efficacious in horses holds promise for improved treatment of OA in humans and other animals who share synovial joint similarities. 

The findings indicate an improved therapy for the most common joint disease in horses, cats, dogs, and humans may be on the horizon. 

The study was funded by the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation and the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.



Two horses touch noses in a pen
Photo by Alonso Guedes