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Duke Health study shows a blood test can find knee osteoarthritis years before an X-ray

Hands of a person wearing gloves holding a test tube containing a blood sample
Karolina Grabowska
/
Pexels
A study shows that a blood test contains information that can predict whether a person will develop knee osteoarthritis before other signs of the disease appear

Researchers at Duke Health have published a study showing knee osteoarthritis can be predicted in women with a blood test up to eight years before it can be detected by X-ray.

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease caused by a combination of cartilage wearing away, bone thickening and inflammation, and can cause debilitating pain for those affected.

Dr. Virginia Byers Kraus, a professor of rheumatology at the Duke University Medical Center, is the senior author on the study. She said the test works by detecting a unique immune response associated with osteoarthritis.

“It's actually telling about joint damage and very low-grade inflammation that's typical for osteoarthritis, that is identifying these at risk people,” Kraus said.

While there isn’t a cure for osteoarthritis, preventative measures can slow progression of the disease. Kraus said implementing this blood test in a clinical setting would be more effective if it could be detected earlier.

“There's not as much change, not as much damage, the disability isn't there yet,” she said. “So, everybody in the field agrees that if you could treat it earlier, it could be much easier.”

While not yet available for clinical use, Kraus said the blood test could someday be used to screen people earlier in their lives and identify more people who would benefit from preventive interventions.

Lily Burton reports on science as the 2024 AAAS Mass Media Fellow at WUNC. She is a PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the University of Chicago and has written for Microbites, Science Unsealed and The Forefront, covering everything from machine learning to stories of patients surviving cancer. She also works with organizations like ComSciCon to host events for grad students in STEM fields to develop their science communication skills.
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