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Study: Testing for joint substance in blood might improve diagnosis of osteoarthritis

B. Kraus, associate professor of medicine, and Thomas Stabler, both at Duke University, Dr. Charles D. Helmick of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Marc C. Hochberg of the University of Maryland also participated in the study.

Hyaluronan is produced by cells of what is called the extracellular matrix, Jordan said. It is thought to contribute to lubricating joints, a process without which walking and running would be unbearably painful. Earlier work suggested HA might serve as a sign, or biomarker, of osteoarthritis.

"Our study is unique in that it consisted of a large, ethically diverse, population-based sample of African Americans and Caucasians and incorporates five definitions of osteoarthritis as shown on X rays," she said. "This was the first study of hyaluronan and osteoarthritis to include African Americans and to consider how other health problems commonly occurring with osteoarthritis might confound the relationship between serum HA and osteoarthritis."

The researchers studied 753 subjects, including 455 with osteoarthritis in their knees. Volunteers ranged in age from about 51 to 72 and averaged almost 62. About 39 percent suffered from high blood pressure, the most common other illness. The least common was cancer.

Average serum HA levels correlated with age, Jordan said. Whites and men showed higher levels than blacks and women, which could reflect genetic or physiologic factors. Such sex and racial differences would need to be taken into account when determining the usefulness of HA and other potential biomarker testing.

Medical scientists have known for the past decade that levels of an important protein known as COMP were higher in cartilage, ligaments, tendons and joint lubricating fluid of whites with osteoarthritis than in whites without the painful, degenerative illness, Jordan said.

In 2003, she and her UNC colleagues showed for the first time that the same th
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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
24-Feb-2005


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