News November 2012 Issue

In The News: November 2012

Viscosupplementation: Claims of Ineffectiveness Unclear

A recent report in the Annals of Internal Medicine claims that joint injections of hyaluronic acid (also called viscosupplementation) may do more harm than good. Hyaluronic acid is found in joints as a natural part of the synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant that allows bones to rub against each other smoothly. Swiss researchers, compiling data from 89 trials involving 12,600 participants, claim that injections of hyaluronic acid—derived from rooster combs and bacterial cultures—not only produced little reduction in osteoarthritis (OA) pain, but 14 trials linked its use to adverse effects. One weakness of the study, said medical experts, was the low quality of many of the trials and the inclusion of studies funded by pharmaceutical companies. Alfred Cianflocco, MD, an orthopaedic expert at Cleveland Clinic, added, “The study was too rigid—they set the bar at a level significantly higher than that which is considered statistically relevant. Prior studies, including those by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have shown that viscosupplementation can provide moderate relief from the symptoms of OA and still has a key role in its treatment.”

Cataract Surgery Lowers Risk of Hip Fracture

People age 65 and older who undergo cataract surgery have lower odds of a hip fracture. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at Rhode Island’s Brown University explored the association between cataract surgery and fracture incidence after one year. Those examined included 1,113,640 participants 65 years and older with a diagnosis of cataract. Of those with cataract, 410,809 (36.9 percent) underwent cataract surgery. The data showed that cataract surgery was linked to a 16 percent decrease in the odds of hip fracture, and in patients with severe cataract the association was even stronger, with a 23 percent reduction in the odds of hip fracture. “Vision plays a key role in postural balance and stability,” said the study’s authors. “Furthermore, cataracts have been found to be the most common cause of fracture-related visual impairment.” Take-away message: As you age, get your vision checked regularly.

High-Strength Scaffold Improves Bone Repair

Biomechanical engineers at Tufts University have developed the first all-polymeric bone-scaffold material that is fully biodegradable and capable of providing increased mechanical support during bone repair. All-polymeric materials, such as collagen, are currently used for bone regeneration, but they lack strength. However, by bonding silk protein microfibers to a silk protein scaffold, engineers were able to develop a fully biodegradable composite with high compressive strength and improved cell response for bone formation. The study, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that silk microfiber-protein composite matrices resemble the mechanical properties of native bone, including matrix stiffness and surface roughness. Said the study’s authors, “By adding the microfibers to the silk scaffolds, we discovered we could get stronger mechanical properties as well as better bone formation.”

Tart Cherries Found to Have High Anti-Inflammatory Effect

Tart cherries may help reduce chronic inflammation. In fact, investigators at Oregon Health & cience University suggest that tart cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food and can help people with osteoarthritis (OA) manage their disease. In a study of 20 women age 40 to 70 with inflammatory OA, researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in key inflammation markers, especially for women who had the highest inflammation at the start of the study. Along with providing the fruit’s bright red color, the antioxidant compounds in tart cherries—called anthocyanins—have been linked to high antioxidant capacity and reduced inflammation, and at levels comparable to some well-known pain medications. Previous research at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas found that a daily dose of tart cherries, as cherry extract, helped reduce OA pain by more than 20 percent for a majority of men and women.