Keck researchers synthesize new, regenerative molecule

USC researcher Denis Evseenko and his team at the Keck School of Medicine have synthesized a new molecule which can potentially help patients with arthritis avoid joint replacement surgery.

Denis Evseenko is the lead researcher of a Keck team that has synthesized a new molecule that can stimulate cartilage regeneration and prevent long-term degeneration for arthritis patients. Photo courtesy of the Keck School of Medicine.

The researchers have published their findings in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases on Wednesday detailing the new molecule named “Regulator of Cartilage Growth and Differentiation,” or RCGD 423, for short.

RCGD 423 both enhances the regeneration of damaged cartilage and lessens the inflammation in cartilage. Evseenko’s research revealed that when the molecule was added to damaged joint cartilages of rats, the cells proliferated more, and the animals healed more effectively from their injuries.

RCGD 423 brings about these effects by communicating with glycoprotein 130 receptors. Gp130 receives signals that promote cartilage development in the embryo, as well as those that trigger chronic inflammation which affects some adults.

However, RCGD 423 increases the Gp130’s ability to receive the developmental signals that can stimulate cartilage regeneration, while also blocking the inflammatory signals that can lead to cartilage degeneration over the long term.

“The goal is to make an injectable therapy for an early to moderate level of arthritis,” Evseenko said in the press release. “It’s not going to cure arthritis, but it will delay the progression of arthritis to the damaging stages when patients need joint replacements, which account for a million surgeries a year in the U.S.”

Evseenko envisions the synthesized molecule as a prototype for future anti-inflammatory drugs. In the lab, RCGD 423 has already been proven effective to activate stem cells to make hair grow. The laboratory is currently collaborating with more researchers at USC as well as other institutions to see the potential the molecule has to treat other disorders, including neurological and heart diseases.