Your heart is pounding in your chest and it feels like you can’t breathe. As you start to sweat, a wave of fear is washing over you. What is happening? you think as your mind starts racing. This is what stress can feel like. It’s also how our joint cells feel when they are experiencing oxidative stress, which appears to be a major contributor in developing osteoarthritis.
Dr Indira Prasadam received international acclaim in 2017 for her research findings suggesting that high levels of cholesterol can be a trigger for oxidative stress on cartilage cells. Oxidative stress is caused by an overabundance of free radicals, a by-product of energy production in our cells. When there are too many free radicals, they cause damage to our cells. In the case of osteoarthritis, the damage occurs to our cartilage.
Building on this ground-breaking work, Indira has now been granted a Research Fellowship by The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation to investigate whether nutraceuticals can reduce free radical production within cartilage cells. A nutraceutical is anything that is derived from natural materials such as food that provides medical or health benefits. Dr Prasadam has developed her own nutraceutical called ‘Carti-Nourish’ which includes fatty acids and chemical compounds derived from green tea.
Considering the current treatment options for late-stage osteoarthritis, a food based dietary supplement like ‘Carti-Nourish’ would be a revolution in healthcare. At the moment, drugs that prevent the onset or progression of the disease are not available. For most late-stage osteoarthritis sufferers, knee or hip replacement surgery is their only treatment option. By this stage, they often have difficulty walking and going about their daily activities.
Dr Prasadam’s research has the potential to improve the quality of life for patients with osteoarthritis and maybe even prevent its formation in the first place. With arthritis affecting 25 per cent of Australians and costing the health care system an estimated $4 billion annually; it is easy to see the value in this important research.
A key part of the research is to further enhance the bioavailability of this product at a preclinical level and performing a clinical trial at The Prince Charles Hospital. The trial will be used to determine the effects of ‘Carti-Nourish’ on knee cartilage loss in osteoarthritis patients. For Dr Prasadam, The Prince Charles Hospital is “the best place to perform the research because of the ability to collaborate with frontline clinical professionals and the sheer volume and diversity of osteoarthritis cases treated there. This helps to speed up the translation of scientific findings into effective clinical practice”.
The research supported by The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation is progressing at a rapid pace with clinical trials expected to start in the next two years. Thanks to Dr Prasadam, it may soon be possible to soothe our panicking joint cells with a dietary supplement, ‘Carti-Nourish’. It could be exactly what our cartilage cells need to keep calm and carry on.
Annalicia is now performing a clinical trial to see if dietary fibre can reduce inflammation in lung cells through healthy gut bacteria.
Walk into the laboratory of the Cardiovascular Molecular and Therapeutics Translational Group and you’ll feel as if you’ve crossed into a unique and exciting dimension of science. Pipes and pumps, tanks filled with water at precisely 37 degrees Celsius to replicate the conditions of the human body, bubbling tubes crossing over one another–Associate Professor Peter Molenaar’s lab is an intriguing sight.