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The biological clock of cartilage cells is ticking

Novel cartilage cell research is underway at the University of Debrecen. It investigates the role of so-called „clock genes” in regulating cartilage tissue formation. The programme has won the Premium postdoctoral research support of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Living organisms, including people, are helped by an internal, multi-centre biological clock to adjust to the circadian rythms, which adjusts our bodies’ functioning to days and nights. The brains’s central clock, the circadian clock, which dictates a roughly  24-hour rhythm, is the most important of these, but there are also several other biological clocks ticking  away in our bodies. Secondary clocks play a role in regulating major organs and there is a molecular biological clock working  in every single cell that has its own peculiar rhythm.  Csaba Matta, researcher of the University of Debrecen, is investigating the peculiar biological clock and genes in cartilage cells.

- Alterations in the internal rhythm of clock genes may lead to disease. Clock genes of cartilage cells also play a role in the formation of arthritis and arthrosis. Clock gene rhythmicity is adequate in healthy cartilage, however, in arthritis, rhythmicity can hardly be detected or, if there is any  it is pathological. For the time being, however, it is unclear what genes are responsible for the worsening of rhythmicity which leads to arthrosis, adjunct of the Institute of Histology and Embryology of the Faculty of Medicine told

Arthrosis is the most common and longest known joint disease, hence there are worlwide efforts to stop the depletion of cartilage tissue or reverse the process.The reasearcher of the University of Debrecen approaches the issue from a unique  perspective.

- No data ara available as to the point of embryonic age at which the biologocal clock in cartilage cells begins to work and what those pathways are through which the clock begins to regulate cartilage tissue formation. If we understand this, we can better understand the biology of mature cartilage tissue, which is of key importance in developing new methods of prevention and therapy, Csaba Matta explained.

The young researcher’s  proposal „ The role of mechanical stimuli in the biological clock of differentiated cartilage cells” won the three-year Premium postdoctoral research support of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in June.

Preliminary animal tests have been performed for the imminent research. Fertilised hen eggs  were hatched in an incubator for a few days and embryonic development was checked by lighting and then the cells responsibe for forming the skeletal system were isolated from the embryos’ limb buds.

- It turned out that, when the precursor cartilage cells turn into mature cartilage-  generating cartilage  cells , there is no concrete clock functioning, rhythmicity has not started yet, Csaba  Matta reported on observations so far. 

It is known to scientists that, through a very important though hitherto little-known      mechanism, embryonic movements and  mechanical stimuli have a key role in the formation of healthy cartilage tissue and joints.

Hence, as a next step, the researcher wishes to investigate whether mechanical stimulation starts rhythmic functioning in clock genes and if so, how. He also wants to find out whether it is possible to alter the clock’s functioning by changing intensity and rhythmicity of mechanical stimulation and how all this affects important pathways for cartilage tissue formation on a molecular level as well as the forming cartilage pool in terms of clock gene functioning.

Csaba Matta is optimistic that he will be able to find answers that can promote and improve at present less successful but promising stem cell treatment for joints.

In cartilage cell biology hardly any scientists have investigated clock genes, thus the researcher of the University of Debrecen is doing pioneering work both in his examinations and his results.

Research connected to clock genes is expected to be more and more popular, as the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine  was awarded to three scientists for mapping the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms.

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