Having a inquire to dwelling to remedy osteoarthritis thumbnail

In 1976, Alan Grodzinsky ’71, ScD ’74, used to be feeling a exiguous bit pissed off. 

He had spent two years teaching a total route on semiconductor physics and circuits in MIT’s Division of Electrical Engineering and Laptop Science, studying the topic cloth within the short-intriguing field as he went alongside. That didn’t scuttle away him any time for learn. Then a golden different arose.

With the help of the late Irving London, founding father of the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, Grodzinsky gained a sabbatical at Boston Younger folks’s Sanatorium below the mentorship of the late Mel Glimcher, chief of orthopedic surgical treatment and a pioneering researcher on the biology of human bones and collagen.

Glimcher wanted to begin a learn project on cartilage, the cruel matrix of fibers that traces the joints, and on osteoarthritis, the power, painful illness that breaks that cartilage down.

It used to be a ideal match for the 29-three hundred and sixty five days-historical Grodzinsky, who had earned his ScD studying the electrical properties of collagen, one among the constituents of cartilage. By three hundred and sixty five days’s discontinue, he used to be on the jog he has adopted ever since: hunting for efficient therapies for osteoarthritis, the main reason within the abet of power anxiety and incapacity across the enviornment. It impacts more than 30 million Americans, and a entire bunch of millions globally.

“It’s a huge monetary burden and incapacity burden. And whereas it’s no longer fatal, it with out a doubt contributes to loss of quality of lifestyles,” says Joseph Buckwalter, an orthopedic surgeon and osteoarthritis professional basically based entirely mostly in Iowa, who has identified Grodzinsky for a long time. “The prices of entire joint replacements, mainly knees and hips, is one among our important health expenditures.”

No thought for anxiety

The US Meals and Drug Administration has no longer authorized any illness-modifying medicines for osteoarthritis—medication that treat the underlying situation as a change of correct the indicators. Essentially the most sufferers can hope for, Grodzinsky says, are anxiety relievers cherish Motrin, occasional injections of steroids, and ultimately joint change surgical treatment. Greater than 1,000,000 knee and hip replacements are finished within the US annually, and the number is anticipated to soar because the inhabitants ages.

While older folks are most liable to osteoarthritis, Grodzinsky has centered principal of his learn on younger folks, particularly female athletes, who generally produce the location after knee injuries.

Tens of hundreds of young females endure injuries to the anterior cruciate ligaments of their knees annually. “After I state my route at MIT linked to biomechanics,” Grodzinsky says, “I effect a ask to about ACL injuries, and correct as many fingers scuttle up this present day as within the previous. I taught a Harvard Medical College route no longer too long ago, and of the 20 students within the class, four females had suffered ACL tears, and one used to be on her third surgical treatment.”

Docs can fix these tears, he says, nonetheless both men and females who endure joint injuries are nonetheless at high risk of rising osteoarthritis in subsequent years. And whereas knee replacements can counteract the consequences of osteoarthritis, doctors are reluctant to design such surgical treatment on younger folks because of the this can doubtlessly maintain to be repeated after the first man made joint wears out.

A knee implant can closing years, says Buckwalter, nonetheless “I would maintain nightmares doing it in any individual below 40, for the reason that odds are almost overwhelming that they’ll need one other one.”

Nanoparticle Rx

Researchers maintain identified existing medication that can also objective alleviate the onset of osteoarthritis, nonetheless they’re hampered by the incontrovertible truth that cartilage doesn’t maintain a pure blood present, Grodzinsky says. When doctors inject a steroid within the knee joint to prick inflammation, the body clears many of the medication sooner than it can per chance per chance receive into the cartilage.

To address this discipline, his lab has pioneered learn titillating nanoparticles, human cadaver knees, and even missions to the World Home Arena.

knee research image
Six days after an arthritic knee used to be handled with nanoparticles containing insulin-cherish yelp part 1 (blue), the particles maintain penetrated by the cartilage of the knee joint.


Starting with that sabbatical more than four decades ago, Grodzinsky learned a a must-maintain truth about cartilage. While the tissue fibers themselves present one of the precious valuable meat up for our joints, principal of its energy comes from its electrostatic properties. “It appears to be like about half the compressive mechanical stiffness of our cartilage is because of the electrostatic homely interactions between negatively charged sugar chains,” he says.

This negatively charged tissue matrix also provides one plot to tell medication instantly into the tissue: by loading them into positively charged nanoparticles. Grodzinsky’s team has been in a station to present in human cadaver knee cartilage that such particles can counteract the early inflammation and anxiety attributable to injuries. 

The initial nanoparticle work used to be started quite a lot of years ago by Grodzinsky’s outdated doctoral student Ambika Bajpayee, MNG ’07, PhD ’15, now a professor at Northeastern College. Bajpayee then collaborated with Paula Hammond, head of MIT’s chemical engineering department, who had pioneered using nanoparticles to tell medication to cancerous tumors. 

Within the Grodzinsky lab, the drug-­containing nanoparticles are injected into animals’ joints, correct as they’d be in human patients, he says, and “once they’re internal, within the occasion that they’re ragged on the ethical concentration, they are able to stay internal for hundreds of weeks,” nestled within the fibrous matrix. 

The neighborhood has targeting handing over two medicines that are already authorized for human use. 

One is the anti-inflammatory dexamethasone, which also has been ragged successfully to treat respiration complications in some hospitalized covid-19 patients. The diversified is insulin-cherish yelp part 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that promotes yelp of bone and cartilage tissue and has been ragged in childhood born smaller than original.

The dexamethasone lessens the breakdown of cartilage after an anxiety, Grodzinsky says, whereas IGF-1 can promote tissue restore.

Animal experiences using IGF-1 were finished in a collaboration with Hammond, and Grodzinsky’s lab has extended this experimental medication to human tissues as effectively, counting on samples from monotonous folks. To this level, the lab has been in a station to form pieces of knee bone, cartilage, and synovial joint tablet from 45 donors, says Garima Dwivedi, a postdoctoral researcher within the lab. 

Dwivedi and her colleagues effect the samples in wells constructed into plastic plates and encourage them metabolically filled with life. Then they discover a mechanical impact that mimics what occurs in a knee anxiety. That releases inflammatory molecules identified as cytokines and begins a route of identical to what occurs in osteoarthritis.

Outer dwelling

In this work, the researchers effect the nanoparticles within the custom medium that bathes the tissue samples—a technique they are able to also objective additionally use in future experiments on the dwelling station, which has change into a magnet for researchers studying ailments of rising older.

Scientists maintain identified for years that human tissues age more rapidly in low Earth orbit than on Earth, although the causes are seriously mysterious. One diagnosis estimated that astronauts’ muscles and bones atrophy 10 cases faster in microgravity. 

Figuring out how to restore joint anxiety can also objective be important for future long- time duration dwelling missions.

With funding from the NIH and NASA, Grodzinsky’s lab despatched samples of knee cartilage-bone plugs and synovium tissues to the ISS in 2019 and 2020. They hoped to search out out whether osteoarthritis-cherish illness may per chance be initiated “in a dish” to simulate what occurs in humans after a knee anxiety—using the microgravity ambiance to stumble on and effect away with the mechanical processes at work—and to are trying treating it with dexamethasone and IGF-1. 

Preliminary results were encouraging, he says. On the most most trendy outing to the ISS, the lab stumbled on that both medication reduced anxiety within the many of the cartilage samples. 

“Since most researchers for the time being stress that there’ll no longer seemingly be a single magic bullet, we deem the flexibility to take a look at combos of equipment in vitro is a important step forward,” Grodzinsky says.

The work in microgravity can also objective additionally pay dividends for future dwelling missions, Dwivedi says. Astronauts, who state intensively in dwelling to counteract the atrophy that muscles and bones have a tendency to endure in weightless prerequisites, are three cases more more seemingly to receive impact injuries than folks on Earth, she says, so realizing how to restore joint anxiety can also objective be important for future long-time duration dwelling missions.

Compassionate mentorship

Grodzinsky repeatedly appeared destined to search out a house at MIT.

Rising up on Lengthy Island, the place he attended public colleges within the booming postwar suburb of East Meadow, he typically visited his older brother, Stephen Grodzinsky ’65, SM ’67, at Burton Home. He remembers pondering, “This appears to be like to be like mountainous to me.”

He went on to receive his ScD below the late James Melcher, director of the college’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Programs. But rapidly a recession hit, and the correct positions he used to be provided were a postdoc in chilly Saskatchewan and an assistant professorship in music and engineering in Brazil. His mentors—including Ioannis Yannas, perfect identified for inventing man made pores and skin—encouraged him to stick around, offering him a teaching station in electrical engineering. He has been on the Institute ever since.

In 1995, MIT position up the Heart for Biomedical Engineering to shut learn in what used to be then a brand original field. Three years later, Grodzinsky used to be named to his most trendy put up as its director. For the time being, his college affiliation changed to the newly formed Division of Natural Engineering, with joint appointments in EECS and mechanical engineering.

Grodzinsky believes any learn success he has finished has been the state outcome of the “aesthetic PhD students and postdocs we were in a station to receive at MIT.” They in flip maintain prospered below his compassionate mentorship.

“It has been a pleasure to work with him, basically because of the he provides you hundreds of of independence to your possess suggestions to produce,” says postdoc Dwivedi. “And no matter who you are and what stage of career you’re in, he listens to you with utmost consideration and appreciate.”

Professor Gropdzinsky and wife Gail
Grodzinsky and his wife, Gail, now a pediatric neuropsychologist at Boston Younger folks’s Sanatorium, met having fun with chamber music.


She also appreciates his deepest beef up. When her parents in India gotten smaller covid in April, he “gave me fully free time to help decide care of them,” she says. 

Grodzinsky himself has managed to book clear of osteoarthritis, even supposing, at age 74, he’s in a top risk category for the illness. 

Possibly, he muses, it’s because of the his avocation as a musician has kept him limber. After years of piano classes on the Third Avenue Music College Settlement in Recent York, he turned into the main violist of the MIT Symphony Orchestra as an undergraduate. He also played in freelance string quartets after ending his ScD and met his wife, Gail, having fun with chamber music.

After officially surroundings foot on campus as a student at age 18, he says with a smile, “come what may, I’ve by no methodology been in a station to search out one plot to fade.”


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