QU Develops Blood Test for Diagnosis of Early-Stage Osteoarthritis
Qatar University (QU) researchers develop a blood test for diagnosis of early-stage osteoarthritis in collaboration with researchers in University of Warwick (UoW), UK. This breakthrough is especially important because early detection of arthritis enables treatment and support to be given before irreversible damage to the joints has occurred. In addition, the test identifies the type of arthritis, giving physicians an advantage on the appropriate type of treatment. This will provide both individual and societal benefit in maintaining a healthy, independent and functional workforce.
The blood test quantifies modified amino acids released from proteins in the joints into the blood during the early stages of development of arthritis. The amount and pattern of these compounds is characteristic for arthritis and, more specifically, the kind of arthritis – osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory joint disease which often heals itself.
Using machine-learning analysis, the researchers developed diagnostic algorithms based on levels and combinations of these modified amino acids that could distinguish if arthritis was or was not present, and then algorithms that could distinguish between early-stage osteoarthritis, early rheumatoid arthritis, and other self-resolving inflammatory joint disease. The blood test has high accuracy (92%), sensitivity (92%) and specificity (90%). The researchers have further validated the blood test diagnostic algorithm in over 350 samples.
QU Professor of Basic Medical Sciences and lead author of the study, Dr. Naila Rabbani commented on the finding saying, “Use of the test will help guide physicians at the earliest stage at which their patient experiences joint pain as to whether arthritis is present or not. Acting on the outcome of this test, the physicians will enable appropriate therapy to be initiated at an early stage when there is a good chance to avoid development to severe disease.”
She adds, “Currently there is no test for early-stage diagnosis of osteoarthritis and the test for early-stage rheumatoid arthritis needs improvement. Our test solves both of these problems.”
“The test is based on quantifying fragments of damaged protein produced in early-stage arthritis that leak from the joint into blood,” Dr. Rabbani said. “It is based on markers of the disease mechanism and hence achieves great accuracy.”
Professor Rabbani was able to further validate the diagnostic algorithm in studies funded by QU. The test may also find use in monitoring the effectiveness of treatments and also post-operative recovery after joint replacement surgery. This blood test could also be applicable to companion animals (e.g., dogs, cats and horses.)
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