New blood test detects early stages of degenerative disease

If you or a loved one is suffering osteoarthritis you’ll know that at present no test has been able to detect the early stages of the degenerative joint disease.

However, researchers at Warwick University in the United Kingdom believe they have developed a blood test that can give you an early diagnosis of osteoarthritis and further, that they can differentiate it between rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory joint diseases.

Published in the Arthritis Research & Therapy journal, the research team — led by Dr Naila Rabbani — say they have developed a blood test that looks for chemical signatures in fragments of your body’s joint proteins that have been damaged.

“The combination of changes in oxidised, nitrated and sugar-modified amino acids in blood enabled early-stage detection and classification of arthritis — osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other self-resolving inflammatory joint disease,” Dr Rabbani says.

The study was carried out on 225 participants, who included patients with knee joint early-stage and advanced osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or another inflammatory joint disease, as well as healthy participants with no joint complaints.

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Samples of each participant’s blood and synovial fluid (which is from your knee joint) were assessed. The oxidised, nitrated and sugar-modified proteins and amino acids from the patients with early and advanced osteoarthritis were noticeably lower than those who were considered to be healthy candidates.

From this information the research team developed a series of algorithms that can diagnose the early stages of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and non-rheumatoid arthritis.

It is hoped the test will be available in the next two years, as the earlier the arthritis is diagnosed the better the chances of treating it before physical and irreversible symptoms set in.

Approximately 2.2 million Australians have osteoarthritis. The degenerative joint disease is defined by the breakdown in cartilage that eases and cushions movement of your joints, causing you pain, swelling and problems moving.

Do you suffer the discomfort of arthritis? What treatment have you received to manage the condition?