Research findings indicate that a florescent probe may ease the diagnosis and monitoring of osteoarthritis (OA). A Tufts University news release states that in a new study, a fluorescent probe tracked the development of OA in male mice, brightening as the disease progressed.

The release reports that the “probe” was a fluorescent molecule that detected the activity leading to cartilage loss in the joint. Researchers hailing from the Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts led the lab and mouse study.

“The fluorescent probe made it easy to see the activities that lead to cartilage breakdown in the initial and moderate stages of osteoarthritis, which is needed for early detection and adequate monitoring of the disease,” explains Shadi A. Esfahani, MD, MPH, post-doctoral fellow in the division of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital, and in the department of radiology at Harvard Medical School.

In the release, she goes on to say that in order to measure the probe’s signal, the researchers used an optical imaging system, to noninvasively look inside the knee.

During the study, the right knees of 54 mice were impacted by injury-induced OA and served as the experimental group receiving pain medication. The healthy, left knees of the mice served as the control group. Over a 2-month period the researchers took images of each knee every 2 weeks to determine if the fluorescent probe emitted a signal. The results indicate the signal became brighter in the injured right knee, at every examined time point, through the early to moderate stages of OA. The probe emitted a lower signal in the healthy left knee, and did not increase significantly over time, the release says.

Corresponding and senior author of the research was Li Zeng, PhD, associate professor in the department of integrative physiology and pathobiology at TUSM, and member of the cellular, molecular, and developmental biology program faculty at the Sackler School.

Zeng notes that the next step is to monitor the fluorescent probe over a longer period of time in order to pinpoint whether the same results are produced during the late stages of OA.

[Photo Credit: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)]

[Source: Tufts University]