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Blood Test Predicts Knee Osteoarthritis Eight Years Before Signs Appears On X-Rays

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 29 Apr 2024
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Image: The new blood test identifies key biomarkers of osteoarthritis (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)
Image: The new blood test identifies key biomarkers of osteoarthritis (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent form of arthritis, impacting millions worldwide and resulting in significant economic and social costs. Although no cure exists currently, the effectiveness of emerging therapies might depend on early detection and slowing the disease's progression before severe debilitation occurs. Traditional diagnostic methods typically do not catch the disease until it has already caused structural damage to the joint. For example, an abnormal X-ray can reveal definitive signs of knee OA, but by the time these signs are visible, the disease has often been advancing for years. Now, a novel blood test has been developed that can predict the onset of knee OA at least eight years before its signs become visible on X-rays.

Researchers at Duke Health (Durham, NC, USA) validated the accuracy of the blood test, which detects key biomarkers of OA. Their findings indicate that the test not only predicts the onset of OA but also its progression, a capability demonstrated in prior studies. The focus of their research has been on identifying molecular biomarkers usable in clinical diagnostics and as tools for drug development research. Previously, the blood biomarker test proved to be 74% accurate in predicting the progression of knee OA and 85% accurate in diagnosing the condition.

In the current study, the team improved the test's predictive capabilities. Utilizing a comprehensive database from the United Kingdom, the team examined the serum from 200 white women, with half being diagnosed with OA and the other half without, matched for body mass index and age. They found a small number of biomarkers in the blood test that effectively differentiated those with knee OA from those without the condition, detecting molecular signals of OA up to eight years before the women received an OA diagnosis via X-ray.

“What our blood test demonstrates is that it’s possible to detect this disease much earlier than our current diagnostics permit,” said Virginia Byers Kraus, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at Duke University School of Medicine. “Early-stage osteoarthritis could provide a ‘window of opportunity’ in which to arrest the disease process and restore joint health.”

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