Scientists have used stem-cell therapy to fix damaged joints of mice -- raising hopes of a new treatment for arthritis.
Swiss firm Novartis AG discovered a compound that spurred cartilage growth from stem cells.
Researchers tested 22,000 drug-like molecules using a robotic screen, applying each one to bone marrow stem cells in tiny laboratory dishes.
One compound, dubbed kartogenin, promoted the development of chondrocytes, cells that become cartilage, said the report in the journal Science.
Researchers injected kartogenin into the damaged knee joints of mice, which prompted cartilage regeneration.
The results suggest a unique, though early-stage, way to regulate cartilage and possibly repair some of the damage from osteoarthritis, the breakdown of cartilage that leads to joint failure, the researchers said.
"We're excited about the biology because it's a new way of targeting the stem cells, but you can't emphasise enough what an early stage of drug discovery this is," said a spokesman for the team.
Additional work is needed to understand exactly how kartogenin works and the basic biology it affects before more animal studies are done.