Research findings by the University of Warwick may pave the way for a blood test for osteoarthritis (OA), allowing patients to be tested and diagnosed several years prior to the onset of physical symptoms. According to a university news release, the research pinpointed a biomarker linked to both rheumatoid (RA) and osteoarthritis.

The research, Biomarkers of early stage osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and musculoskeletal healthappears in Nature Scientific Reports.

The release adds that while there are established tests for RA, the newly identified biomarker could potentially lead to a test with the ability to diagnose both RA and OA.

The research focused on citrullinated proteins (CPs), a biomarker suspected to be present in the blood of individuals with early-stage RA. Prior, it had reportedly been established that patients with RA have antibodies to CPs, but it was not thought that this was the same for individuals with OA.

Yet, the release states that Warwick researchers found increased CPs levels in both early-stage OA and RA. The researchers then produced an algorithm of three biomarkers. These included CPs, and anti-CP antibodies along with hydroxyproline.

The release notes that researchers then used the algorithm and found that with a single test, they could potentially detect and discriminate between the major types of arthritis at the early stages, before joint damage occurred.

Naila Rabbani, BSc, PhD, lead researcher, calls the finding “remarkable and unexpected.”

“It could help bring early-stage and appropriate treatment for arthritis which gives the best chance of effective treatment,” Rabbani adds in the release.

Rabbani goes on to explain that it has been established that the autoimmunity of early-stage RA leads to antibodies to CPs, however the autoimmunity, and in effect antibodies, are absent in early-stage OA.

“Using this knowledge and applying the algorithm of biomarkers we developed provides the basis to discriminate between these two major types of arthritis at an early stage,” Rabbani says.

This ability to discriminate between RA and OA could provide a variety of benefits to patients, such as early diagnosis, the release states.

Beyond the detection of early-stage OA, Rabbani points out that researchers found they could detect and discriminate early-stage RA and other inflammatory joint diseases.

The discovery is promising for a potential blood test designed to diagnose both RA and OA several years prior to onset of physical symptoms, Rabbani adds.

The release notes that the research was led by Warwick Medical School in collaboration with Warwick Systems Biology Centre and investigators from Medical Schools of the University of Birmingham, University of East Anglia, and University of Exeter.

Source: University of Warwick