Test detects arthritis before joints hurt

U. MISSOURI (US) — A new test can accurately detect and predict arthritis before patients begin suffering from symptoms.

More than 27 million adults suffer from osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis. In the past, doctors have been unable to diagnose patients with arthritis until they begin to show symptoms, which include joint pain and stiffness.  But by the time the symptoms are present, it is often too late for preventive and minimally invasive treatment options to be effective.

Using specific biomarkers, the new test can accurately determine if a patient is developing arthritis as well as predict the potential severity of the disease. The test can be run off of a single drop of fluid from a patient’s joint, which is obtained with a small needle similar to drawing blood.

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“With this biomarker test, we can study the levels of specific proteins that we now know are associated with osteoarthritis,” says James Cook, professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Missouri.

“Not only does the test have the potential to help predict future arthritis, but it also tells us about the early mechanisms of arthritis, which will lead to better treatments in the future.”

Published in the Journal of Knee Surgery, Cook and colleagues report that they developed the test by analyzing the joints of dogs that suffer from arthritis.

Veterinarians predict that 20 percent of middle-aged dogs and 90 percent of older dogs have osteoarthritis in one or more joints.  Since canine joints operate similarly to the joints of humans, Cook says the test is being adapted to human patients.

“This test has already shown early usefulness for allowing us to monitor how different treatments affect the arthritic joints in people,” Cook says.

“With further validation, this test will allow doctors to adjust and fine tune treatments to individual patients. Also, being able to tell patients when they are at a high risk for developing arthritis will give doctors a strong motivational tool to convince patients to take preventive measures including appropriate exercise and diet change.”

The biomarker test is currently available for licensing and is in the process of gaining FDA approval.

More news from the University of Missouri: http://munews.missouri.edu/