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Yale researchers have identified a potential new medical application for the epilepsy drug carbamazepine. The medication has shown promise in treating osteoarthritis by inhibiting a gene associated with joint degeneration.

Epilepsy drug shows promise in osteoarthritis treatment

In the United States of America, approximately 30 million individuals are affected by a prevalent form of arthritis causing joint stiffness and pain. The degenerative disease lacks a cure, with current treatments involving pain relievers and exercise to alleviate joint stress, but these methods do not halt the progressive degeneration experienced by patients.

Yale researcher Stephen G. Waxman emphasizes the significance of sodium channels, particularly Nav1.7, in the transmission of pain signals. These specialized proteins, present in cell membranes of excitable cells, generate electrical impulses in muscles, the nervous system, and the heart, contributing to the sensation of pain.

The recent investigation revealed the presence of Nav1.7 in cells classified as “non-excitable.” These cells play a role in preserving joint health and synthesizing collagen, a fibrous protein crucial for connective tissue formation. This finding holds significance as osteoarthritis stems from the deterioration of cartilage in joints, commonly affecting areas such as the hands, hips, and knees.

Elimination of Nav1.7 gene in cells decelerated joint degeneration

When scientists eliminated Nav1.7 genes from cells responsible for collagen production, this modification markedly decelerated joint degeneration in mice afflicted with the condition. Additionally, these investigations revealed that carbamazepine, a sodium channel blocker prescribed for epilepsy, exhibited robust shielding effects against joint impairment in the same mice.

Waxman stated in a university statement that the role of sodium channels in non-excitable cells has remained enigmatic. This recent study offers insight into the potent regulatory influence exerted by a limited number of sodium channels on the behavior of non-excitable cells.

Wenyu Fu, the primary researcher and author of the research, emphasizes that the identification not only offers an additional remedy for individuals with arthritis but also unveils a novel pathway for investigation that could potentially lead to a cure for the ailment in the foreseeable future.

The results have been documented in the publication Nature.