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New Test For Early Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the commonest and most disabling joint condition in the world, affecting hundreds of millions of people and 21 million people in the USA alone. OA is the commonest reason for hip replacement and knee replacement.


An early diagnosis test for osteoarthritis has long been sought and a newly developed medical imaging technology may provide this. Scientists reported today at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society that they have developed a scanning technique which might diagnose osteoarthritis early, allowing early interventions such as physiotherapy.


OA is usually diagnosed when it is well advanced and joint damage may already have occurred. Early diagnosis could give an opportunity to prevent or reduce permanent damage.

'Our methods have the potential of providing early warning signs for cartilage disorders like osteoarthritis, thus potentially avoiding surgery and physical therapy later on,' states Alexej Jerschow.Ph.D. “Also, the effectiveness of early preventative drug therapies can be better assessed with these methods.”


Common in the knees and hips, OA damages cartilage, the tough, elastic material that cushions moving parts of joints “It has all these painful consequences and makes it difficult to move - it results in a severe loss of quality of life for those who are affected by it,” says Ravinder R Regatte Ph.D.


The new method uses modified magnetic resonance imaging to measure the concentration of a polymer known as glycosaminogycan (GAG). GAG holds lots of water and gives cartilage its tough, elastic properties and a low concentration of GAG is known to correlate with the onset of osteoarthritis and other cartilage disorders.


By the time advanced OA is diagnosed joint replacement may be the only option. With early detection, physicians could prescribe dietary supplements, medication or other measures such as physiotherapy to prevent further cartilage damage. This is unlikely to make a huge difference in management as there are no effective treatments to prevent OA developing.


This quick, non-invasive test could measure cartilage health, follow the progress of an arthritic joint and gauge the effectiveness of cartilage-promoting drugs.

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