Test could find arthritis before your joints hurt

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Patients could soon be diagnosed with early-stage arthritis several years before the onset of physical and irreversible symptoms, scientists say.

Researchers developed a test that can provide an early diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) and also distinguish it from early-stage rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other self-resolving inflammatory joint disease.

The test, which could be available to patients within two years, identifies the chemical signatures found in the plasma of blood joint proteins damaged by oxidation, nitration, and glycation; the modification of proteins with oxygen, nitrogen, and sugar molecules.

Diagnosing which type of arthritis a patient will develop at an early-stage will allow for appropriate treatment that will provide the best chance for effective treatment and potential prevention.

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For the study, published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy, plasma and synovial fluid samples were taken from patients with early-stage and advanced OA, RA, or other inflammatory joint disease and from a control group of those with good skeletal health.

The findings showed damaged proteins in characteristic patterns in the samples of those patients with early and advanced OA and RA, but at markedly lower levels in the samples of those in the control group—providing identifiable biomarkers necessary for early detection and diagnosis.

“Damage to proteins in the arthritic joint have been known for many years but this is the first time it has been exploited for early-stage diagnosis,” says Naila Rabbani of Warwick Medical School.

“For the first time we measured small fragments from damaged proteins that leak from the joint into blood. The combination of changes in oxidized, nitrated, and sugar-modified amino acids in blood enabled early stage detection and classification of arthritis—osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other self-resolving inflammatory joint disease.

“This is a big step forward for early-stage detection of arthritis that will help start treatment early and prevent painful and debilitating disease.”

Source: University of Warwick