New Test Developed For Diagnosing Arthritis
Scientists from Warwick University have developed a simple, cheap and non-invasive blood test for arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is caused by wear on the cartilage that surrounds our joints. At present there is no specific test for it, and so often it is left undiagnosed until it has reached a late stage, and joint damage has reached a point where it can only be effectively treated with surgery. However, it is hoped that this new test will be able to provide a diagnosis up to a decade earlier than current techniques, allowing for lifestyle changes which could delay or prevent the need for surgery.
This new method of diagnosis requires only a single drop of blood, which is tested for two compounds which have been shown to be present in higher levels in the blood of those with osteoarthritis than those without. According to the Nature Scientific Reports journal, when trialled this test correctly diagnosed 22 out of 30 people.
At only £50, the technique is cheaper than alternative diagnosis methods, such as MRI scans and keyhole cameras, and uses equipment common in hospital labs. In theory, blood samples could be taken in doctor’s surgeries and results returned in two to three days.
According to lead researcher Dr Naila Rabbani, the technology is “good to go” and could easily be brought into use within the NHS.
The Benefits: Enabling Early-Stage Treatment
Dr Rabbani described the importance of this research: “This is a remarkable and unexpected finding. It could help bring early-stage and appropriate treatment for arthritis, which gives the best chance of effective treatment.”
The main reason this is important is because of how much earlier it is able to diagnose the disease and rule out alternative possible causes of joint pain. There are no drugs which can rebuild lost cartilage, and treatment is difficult in the late stages of the disease. However, if diagnosed early, steps can be made to prevent or slow the advance of the disease, reducing the negative impact it has on people’s joints before serious damage has occurred.
Dr Rabbani explains: “For early osteoarthritis, the view is that lifestyle changes might be effective, at least in some cases to decrease the strain on the joints. For examples, loss of weight, attention to correct posture and changes to diet.”
Arthritis Research UK described the research as “of great interest.”