Could Algae Help Lead to New Treatment for Osteoarthritis?


(DGIwire) – Osteoarthritis (OA) is considered to be the most common joint disease in the United States, affecting more than 30 million adults, according to Medical News Today. But research recently published in the journal Biomaterials Science suggests a new avenue for treatment: algae.

As noted by Medical News Today, experiments in vitro have revealed that polysaccharide alginate derivatives extracted from stems of brown algae called Laminaria hyperborea, also known as “tangle” or “cuvie,” might be able to halt the deterioration of joint cartilage. The properties of these derivatives are similar to those of extracellular cartilage molecules, the publication reports.

Alginate, which is derived from brown algae, has been used as a culture system for cartilage cells for many years, one of the researchers told Medical News Today. In this particular case, alginate was chemically modified to be a better mimic of the body’s natural polysaccharides that are also present in cartilage.

“Extracts of various strains of algae have long been known to possess potential medicinal properties,” says Andrew Dahl, President and CEO of ZIVO Bioscience, a biotech/agtech R&D company engaged in the commercialization of nutritional and medicinal products derived from proprietary algal strains. “Ongoing work in this area is bound to discover novel applications to various medical conditions.”

Adapting isolates of ZIVO’s proprietary algal strains for pharmaceutical applications is a near-term goal of the company. Early work utilizing a unique ex vivo technique pioneered at the University of Missouri Comparative Orthopaedics Laboratory indicated that ZIVO algae extracts exhibited a chemo-protective effect on the surface of canine joint cartilage subjected to degradation by inflammatory interleukins. This may eventually lead to a new therapy that slows the advance of canine osteoarthritis, a common malady affecting millions of cherished pets.

ZIVO has also investigated the use of its algal isolates to lower cholesterol in transgenic hamsters with induced hypercholesterolemia. For the near term, the company has chosen to focus on the immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory properties of its proprietary isolates for both animal and human applications.

“The versatility of algae in addressing longstanding unmet needs in medical treatment is one of the chief inspirations for those who are involved in discovering and developing novel algal strains,” Dahl adds.