Leptin - a link between obesity and osteoarthritis. applications for prevention and treatment.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of musculoskeletal disability and pain in the world. The current drug treatment for OA is symptom relieving, and there is an urgent need for treatments that could retard, prevent or repair cartilage destruction in OA. Obesity is a major risk factor for OA. Traditionally, it has been thought to contribute to the development of OA by increasing the load on weight-bearing joints. However, this appears to be an over-simplification, because obesity is also linked to OA in the hand and finger joints. Recent studies have shown that adipocytokine leptin is a possible link between obesity and OA: Leptin levels in synovial fluid are increased in obese patients, leptin receptor (Ob-R) is expressed in cartilage, and leptin induces the production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), pro-inflammatory mediators and nitric oxide (NO) in chondrocytes. Furthermore, according to the very recent findings, not only leptin levels in the joint but also leptin sensitivity in the cartilage are enhanced in obese OA patients. The findings supporting leptin as a causative link between obesity and OA offer leptin as a potential target to the development of disease-modifying drugs for osteoarthritis (DMOAD), especially for obese patients.