Friday, July 26, 2013

Urocortin molecule protects cells from osteoarthritis, say researchers

We know that, Urocortin is a protein that in humans is encoded by the UCN gene. This gene is a member of the sauvagine/corticotropin-releasing factor/urotensin I family. It is structurally related to the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) gene and the encoded product is an endogenous ligand for CRF type 2 receptors. In the brain, it may be responsible for the effects of stress on appetite. In spite of the gene family name similarity, the product of this gene has no sequence similarity to urotensin II. Urocortin is a potent anorexigenic peptide of 40 amino acids that induces fed-like motor activity when administered centrally or peripherally in fasted animals. Urocortin belongs to the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) family that includes CRFurotensin Isauvagineurocortin II and urocortin III. Urocortin is also a potent and long-lasting hypotensive agent and increases coronary blood flow.

Now researchers from The University of Manchester and the University of Westminster have found that the molecule, known as Urocortin, protects cells in the joints from being destroyed.
The discovery could help lead to the development of new medicines to prevent joint degradation  a condition which affects millions of people in the UK each year.

Osteoarthritis, a painful condition associated with a loss of joint mobility particularly in the knees, hips, hands and vertebrae, is caused by the destruction and loss of cartilage within these joints and is on the rise as people live longer.

Specialised cells called chondrocytes are responsible for producing and maintaining healthy cartilage but in osteoarthritis the number of active cells is reduced.
Professor Paul Townsend, joint lead researcher along with Dr Ian Locke, the University of Westminster, in the study published in the journal Cell Death and Disease today (11 July), said: "In osteoarthritis many different programmed cell-death chemicals are produced which cause chondrocytes to die. Our research shows that the naturally occurring molecule, Urocortin, produced by the body is essential for these chondrocyte cells to survive."

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