Institute Researchers Demonstrate links between Osteoarthritis and non-Coding RNAs

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The Institute of Life Course and Medical Science’s Professor Mandy Peffers, in partnership with the Welting Group at Maastricht University Medical Centre recently published an influential paper that could lead to important breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of the age-related condition osteoarthritis, specifically the changes to a class of non-coding RNAs called small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs). In this Wellcome Trust funded study cartilage from young, old and osteoarthritic human knees was used in a microarray study to identify alterations in snoRNA expression.

SnoRNA are a class of non-coding RNAs which classically modify RNA substrates to fine-tune RNA function, accommodating changing requirements for protein synthesis during health and disease. In this study, the team wanted to analyse the changes to, and effects of these snoRNA’s in osteoarthritis and cartilage ageing.

To do so, the study, recently published in Scientific Reports, used a range of samples and additionally measured changes in snoRNAs in osteoarthritis-like conditions. They further investigated two of the snoRNAs found to change in ageing or osteoarthritic cartilage; SNORD26 and SNORD96A by increasing and decreasing the activity of these snoRNAs in test samples to analyse the changes as a result.

Osteoarthritis is an important age-related joint disease and affects 8 million people in the United Kingdom alone. It is of increasing concern in our ageing population, with 80% of over 65-year olds worldwide being affected. Age affects the onset and progression of osteoarthritis. Within cartilage in osteoarthritis there is an imbalance between cartilage production and breakdown.

The study, along with the groups previous work ( and that these changes in snoRNA occur in joints during ageing and osteoarthritis, hinting at the possibility that further study of these changes and specific non-coding RNAs could offer a route to possible treatment in future, as well as establishing a basis for further investigations into the now known importance of snoRNA in joint function, ageing and osteoarthritis.

Mandy Peffers headshot

Lead researcher, Professor Mandy Peffers, said “We are excited to share this novel data with the osteoarthritis and wider scientific community as this is the first time to our knowledge that snoRNAs have been interrogated in a global way in age-related musculoskeletal disease. Our findings give hope to sufferers of osteoarthritis of an additional class of molecules that could be targeted as treatments.  ”

A link to the paper is available here –

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DOI: 10.1038/srep43558