Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

Synthetic broccoli compound shows promise as osteoarthritis treatment

A new study has demonstrated the potential benefits of a new osteoarthritis drug based on a compound found in broccoli.

Developed in collaboration between the University of London's Royal Veterinary College and British drugmaker Evgen Pharma, the therapy is based on a synthetic version of sulforaphane, a substance found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts and cabbage.

This compound has been shown to block enzymes that destroy joint cartilage and processes that cause inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, but patients would have to consume unrealistically large quantities in order for it to have an effect.

Previous efforts to create a sulforaphane-based medicine have been held back by its inherent instability. However, this new project has led to the synthesis of a stable version of sulforaphane, which has been incorporated into a medication called Sulforadex, also known as SFX-01.

Study data presented at the joint meeting of the European Calcified Tissue Society and the International Bone and Mineral Society indicates that a single dose of the product provides as much sulforaphane as eating around 2.5 kg of broccoli in a day.

Moreover, experiments with mice showed that SFX-01 delivered significantly improved bone architecture, gait balance and movement in comparison to an untreated sample group.

Andrew Pitsillides, professor of skeletal dynamics at the University of London Royal Veterinary College, said: "These initial results are very positive for such an experiment and we have convinced ourselves that sulforaphane is a promising agent for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

"However, the clinical development of sulforaphane has been held back by the fact that it is inherently unstable. Thus, SFX-01 is a major advance in this area."

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK, which has previously funded research that established the beneficial effects of sulforaphane in osteoarthritis, said the findings were promising, although the data was yet to be published.

"We know that sulforaphane helps to block inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, but so far it has been difficult to see how this finding could be applied to humans without them having to consume vast amounts of broccoli every day," she added.

"This new research could take us a step closer to being able to take a daily supplement."

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Posted on Thursday 30th April 2015