New recategorisation of osteoarthritis could revolutionise treatment in the future

hip osteoarthritis

Recent research carried out by the University of Manchester has found that the current definition of ‘arthritis’ is too generic and should be split into two different categories depending on the nature of the condition.

The results, gleaned from complex analysis of thousands of genes expressed in the cartilage of 60 individual patients with knee osteoarthritis, suggest that if cases of arthritis can be identified and categorised into one of these two groups, then a more effective treatment plan can be put in place. The report’s authors feel that there is now a ‘once size fits all approach’, which until now has been effective to a certain degree, but this heightened knowledge of the differing types of osteoarthritis now put us in a better position to understand the disease and to make effective treatment recommendations.

The two different groupings are based on the amount of active metabolism in the affected tissue and represent a really significant step towards more efficient treatment journey for the condition.

The findings were the result of analysis of synovial fluid, which is the liquid found inside cavities of synovial joints (the most common and most movable type of joint in the body of mammals, which achieve movement at the point of contact of articulating bones). The fluid is important as it reduces friction inside the joints and allows for effective joint mobility, and it carries a lot of information that is useful for scientists to begin to unpick.

Research can help make cost savings

According to recently published reports: “musculo-skeletal conditions cost the NHS £4.76 billion per year in 2013-14 and there has been little advance in the treatments for osteoarthritis over that past 30 years; new approaches tested have yielded little benefit.”

The benefit of splitting patients into two different groups for treatment of arthritis is that the treatment will be more targeted and should in turn help to ease the burden on our already overstretched NHS budget.

Osteoarthritis can be a debilitating condition, which can cause daily pain and loss of movement in critical joints. It is a widespread issue, believed to be the most common musculoskeletal condition in older people.

Around one-third of people aged 45 years and over in the UK, a total of 8.75 million people, have sought treatment for osteoarthritis.  Those living with the condition will be reassured to hear that thanks to the continual analysis of medical data and the perseverance of specialist scientists, we are making breakthroughs such as this which will help the overall quality of life for those who suffer from osteoarthritis.

Drug trials will soon be underway thanks to the insights gleaned from this new data analysis. The hope is that these trials will yield the opportunity to produce treatment plans for patients which are guided by the stratification group that patients fall into based on indicators assessed in the synovial fluid analysis and thereby provide a more effective treatment for osteoarthritis patients.