New research may mean blood tests for osteoarthritis could soon be available.
A study undertaken by the University of Warwick has identified a biomarker linked to both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. While blood tests are established for the former, this means they could also be used to diagnose the latter.
The research focused around the biomarker citrullinated proteins (CP). It was already known that rheumatoid arthritis patients have higher levels of CP at an early stage of the condition, but the study discovered that the same is also true of osteoarthritis.
Using this information they produced an algorithm that can potentially detect and identify the major types of arthritis at the early stages of the condition, before joint damage takes place.
Dr Naila Rabbani, who led the research, stated: “This is a remarkable and unexpected finding. It could help bring early-stage and appropriate treatment for arthritis which gives the best chance of effective treatment.”
“This discovery raises the potential of a blood test that can help diagnose both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis several years before the onset of physical symptoms,” he added.
Dr Rabbani said the fact the study revealed how to detect early-stage osteoarthritis alone was a hugely significant result, but also being able to detect and discriminate rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory joint diseases is a huge bonus.
Full details of the study have been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK commented: “Researchers that we fund, as well as others, have been looking for reliable biomarkers to detect early osteoarthritis for a number of years, so these new research findings are of great interest. They could potentially help clinicians diagnose the condition much earlier than they are currently able.
“At present there are no simple tests for the early diagnosis of osteoarthritis, and usually by the time a definitive diagnosis is made using x-rays, for example, the disease is in its advanced stages. Moreover, there are currently no means of predicting how it will develop or respond to therapy. Biomarkers could be used to identify patients in the early stages of osteoarthritis or those who will worsen over time.
“Early diagnosis could lead to people affected by osteoarthritis making lifestyle changes such as losing weight and becoming more physically active in order to reduce the impact of the condition on their joints.
“Eight million people are living with osteoarthritis in the UK and finding new and effective treatments to relive their pain, and to slow down or even prevent the its progression is a majority priority for Arthritis Research UK.”