Two new osteoarthritis biomarkers eyed for predictive Dx

Bristol University--Courtesy of University of Bristol

U.K. researchers say they've zeroed in on two new biomarkers that could help predict who will develop osteoarthritis. The hope is that the biomarkers could form the basis of a blood test that enables earlier medical intervention before the condition causes too much damage.

The Daily Express in the U.K. reported on the work, which has gotten some early grant funding from Arthritis Research UK, a medical research charity. A team from Bristol University is pursuing the project, according to the story, and the goal is to come up with a viable predictive diagnostic that could hit the market within 5 years.

An eventual diagnostic based on the Bristol team's biomarker work could greatly advance the use of personalized medicine in the diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis. As the story points out, options are limited as far as the early diagnosis of osteoarthritis, which can lead to severe joint damage, and in turn, fuels expensive medical treatments such as joint replacements. Doctors typically make a definitive diagnosis visually, through X-rays, and at that point the osteoarthritis can be very advanced.

That's where a biomarker blood test to enable earlier osteoarthritis treatment could make a big difference. Earlier intervention could enable solutions such as weight loss and physical therapy to help slow the disease's advance. Such a test could also facilitate development of targeted treatments or help determine whether a drug treatment already underway is producing any positive results.

A quest for an early-stage osteoarthritis blood test has been ongoing. Back in 2012, for example, researchers at the University of Missouri discovered that proteins in a single drop of fluid surrounding a damaged joint could help not only figure out whether a patient is developing arthritis but also predict how severe the arthritis in a patient might become. Another finding from the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project that same year identified an osteoarthritis biomarker that, in part, marked hip joint degeneration.

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