Scientists have opened the door to new research and treatment avenues for osteoarthritis sufferers after taking an in-depth look at joints affected by the condition.
For the first time, researchers were able to view arthritis from a cellular-level and see how the tissue of joints is impacted. This groundbreaking discovery gives scientists the opportunity to look further into how diet, drugs and exercise affect a joint’s cells.
Previously, it was quite difficult for scientists to view the disease from such a scale, with restrictions on scanning time and level of radiation creating barriers. But Brian Bay, from the Oregon State University College of Engineering, along with researchers from other universities, found a way to conduct nanoscale imaging of bones and joints and consequently see any changes in the tissue.
This allowed them to look at joints from the tissue layers down to the cellular level. It was an exciting moment for researchers who said they’ll be able use this method to see how current measures that assist the treatment of arthritis are working to rebuild tissue.
Osteoarthritis, the degeneration of joints, affects more than 50 million American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While in Australia, one in six people are living with the condition, suffering from pain and stiffness, which leads to limited mobility.
“Osteoarthritis will affect most of us during our lifetimes, many to the point where a knee joint or hip joint requires replacement with a costly and difficult surgery after enduring years of disability and pain,” Bay said.
“Damage to the cartilage surfaces is associated with failure of the joint, but that damage only becomes obvious very late in the disease process and cartilage is just the outermost layer in a complex assembly of tissues that lie deep below the surface.”
It’s in those deep tissue layers where early changes occur as osteoarthritis develops, according to Bay. However, their basic biomechanical function and the significance of the changes are not well understood.
This new method to view the condition from a cellular level could mean relief for millions of arthritis sufferers.
“This is a significant advance as methods for interrupting the osteoarthritis process will likely involve controlling cellular activity,” Bay said.
“It’s a breakthrough in linking the clinical problem of joint failure with the most basic biological mechanisms involved in maintaining joint health.”
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