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Research With Dogs Points to Early Test for Arthritis

One drop of blood can predict the joint disease before symptoms appear, scientists say

FRIDAY, May 18, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A new test that can detect and predict osteoarthritis before patients experience symptoms was developed by analyzing the joints of dogs with arthritis.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects more than 27 million adults in the United States. Early detection of the disease, which causes pain and swelling in the joints, would allow better treatment options, according to the University of Missouri researchers.

They said their test can be conducted using a single drop of fluid from a patient's joint. The fluid is obtained with a small needle.

"With this biomarker test, we can study the levels of specific proteins that we now know are associated with osteoarthritis," James Cook, a professor of orthopedic surgery and a researcher at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a university news release.

"Not only does the test have the potential to help predict future arthritis, but it also tells us about the early mechanisms of arthritis, which will lead to better treatments in the future," he explained.

Cook and his colleagues used dogs to develop the test, noting that dog joints operate similarly to the joints of humans and the test is being adapted to human patients. The test has been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval.

Scientists note, however, that research with animals often fails to provide similar results in humans.

"This test has already shown early usefulness for allowing us to monitor how different treatments affect the arthritic joints in people," Cook said. "With further validation, this test will allow doctors to adjust and fine tune treatments to individual patients. Also, being able to tell patients when they are at a high risk for developing arthritis will give doctors a strong motivational tool to convince patients to take preventive measures including appropriate exercise and diet change."

The research appears in the Journal of Knee Surgery.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about osteoarthritis.

SOURCE: University of Missouri, news release, May 15, 2012
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