King's College LondonOsteoarthritis is said to be a group of diseases and mechanical abnormalities concerning degradation of joints, including articular cartilage and the subchondral bone subsequent to it. Study authors at King’s College London’s Twin Research Unit have seemingly found new ways of gauging metabolites in the blood which could be used to identify osteoarthritis earlier.

Their new biochemical test known as metabolomics enables the experts to examine for around 163 chemical signals simultaneously from a single blood sample. These chemical signals are believed to be pointers of the metabolism of human cells and their 26,000 metabolite ratios presumably stand for the chemical reactions occurring in the human body.

Dr Guangju Zhai, lead author on the paper published in the journal, Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, commented, “Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 8.5 million people in the UK and one of its main characteristics is damage to cartilage, the strong smooth muscle that lines the bones and allows joints to move easily and without friction. The search for biomarkers, or traits, which can be used to measure or indicate the effects or progress of a condition is a hugely exciting area of clinical research. The two novel metabolic biomarkers found through our study could indicate increased cartilage breakdown and we now want to study these mechanisms in more detail.”

Professor Tim Spector, senior author of the paper remarked, “Ours is the first study using a metabolomics approach to identify novel metabolic biomarkers for osteoarthritis. We hope that further research will lead to these two metabolite ratios being adopted into clinical practice, enabling doctors to diagnose the condition, or identify that osteoarthritis is developing earlier. Our study also shows the enormous clinical potential of metabolomics, and we hope in future that they could be used to monitor the effectiveness of treatments. At the moment we relay on x-rays and scans – and our dependence on these methods is a major obstacle to the development of new drugs for osteoarthritis.”

The team initially checked roughly 123 women suffering from osteoarthritis of the Twins UK register, comparing the disparity in the metabolites and the 26,000 metabolite ratios between the two groups. It was seemingly seen that 14 metabolite ratios were considerably linked to osteoarthritis.

The team then subsequently examined these signals to observe if they were duplicated in an independent sample comprising of 76 women with knee arthritis and 100 fit women. Two ratios were said to be effectively corroborated in the replication sample.