Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis is a group of diseases characterized by joint pain, tenderness, stiffness, creaking and locking of joints which can be accompanied by local inflammation. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a cushion between the bones of the joints, and coats the ends of the bones as a slippery tissue. The synovium is the tissue that lines a joint and synovial fluid acts as a lubricating fluid that supplies nutrients and oxygen to cartilage. Loss of cartilage and lubrication of the joints is often the cause of osteoarthritis and can be hereditary, developmental, metabolic or due to repeated mechanical stress to the joint.
The synovial membrane lining the joint capsule is made up of cells termed synoviocytes which are responsible for the production of synovial fluid components, blood/fluid exchange and absorption from the joint cavity and while injections of synovial fluid into arthritic joints has been used as a treatment for osteoarthritis, the exact mechanisms by which these cells function and secrete fluid is not fully understood.
Research at ICBC focuses on individual synoviocytes, and uses patch clamp and imaging technology to identify the unique features of these cells and their ion channels. Studying synoviocytes provides keys to understanding joint lubrication and the processes affecting osteoarthritis and is helping us understand osteoarthritis in more detail with the goal of developing selective drug treatments aimed for this disease.