Washington: Scientists have discovered a protein, the lack of which can result in a smaller skeleton during development and sets the stage for a more fragile bone framework lifelong.
The discovery of neogenin by Dr Wen-Cheng Xiong, developmental neurobiologist in the MCG Schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies and Dr Zheng Zhou, MCG assistant research scientist, could open new doors.
The findings could be useful in treating osteoarthritis, a common, painful and debilitating condition where cartilage between bones is lost.
Neogenin forms a protein complex essential to turning on cartilage-producing genes, the researchers found.
That`s why, if it`s mutated, like in the mouse, cartilage and bone formation is disrupted – not halted.
Nutrition, inflammation and hormones are among the many factors that impact bone`s status.
Neogenin, according to the study, helps direct neurons during brain development and aid in regulation of iron levels, and is found throughout bone and cartilage and numerous other tissues.
In adulthood, neogenin may become more of an overseer, keeping tabs on functions it influences, such as bone formation.
"In late-stage arthritis, the cartilage function may be completely disrupted but early in the disease process, maybe there is a window for stimulating this protein," Xiong said.
The study is published in Developmental Cell.