Around 8.5 million people suffer from osteoarthritis in the UK and many of them are elderly. One of the problems associated with treating the condition is that it’s not until symptoms develop that a diagnosis is made.
That could all change, however, with the introduction of a blood test that can detect osteoarthritis two years prior to symptoms becoming evident. Protein fragments released into the bloodstream through joint damage could be picked up from a single drop of blood with 98 per cent accuracy.
At present, by the time most people find out they have osteoarthritis the only option is to get a knee or hip replacement. The £200 blood test could give the opportunity for preventative medicine to take the forefront instead.
Since osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear on the cartilage, there are lifestyle changes that can help to reduce its occurrence. Losing weight and doing more exercise can help maintain the joints and an early diagnosis could be the catalyst a patient needs to make such changes before it’s too late.
In a joint project between Liege and Warwick universities, researchers first discovered the presence of protein glucosepane in patients with osteoarthritis three years ago. This finding spawned a study comparing 66 people with the condition to 29 healthy individuals.
Dr Naila Rabbani, of the University of Warwick Medical School, told the Daily Mail: “This test can pick up osteoarthritis two years before any symptoms and three to four years before severe pain.”
Next in the process of developing the test as part of the treatment process is to trial it on thousands more people. It is hoped that this could eventually lead to it being rolled out to patients by 2020.