Researchers believe that the gene known as ADAM-12 could be significant in the battle against arthritis, which could lead to new treatments that may make individuals less likely to need home care.
Scientists at the University of Missouri said the ADAM-12 level rises when arthritis, cancer and cardiac hypertrophy are present.
It is believed that a Z-DNA-binding silencer element keeps the level of the gene low in normal circumstances, and altering this could lead to new therapies for the conditions.
Researcher Bimal Ray said: "Most of the success in cancer therapy lies in a combination of approaches and chemotherapies, and this could become another piece of the puzzle that leads to the cure."
This comes after Professor Alan Silman, medical director of the medical research charity Arthritis Research UK, said joint replacements are much more likely to fail in obese patients, with half of this group not recovering as well following surgery.