Using mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) have mapped complex sugars on osteoarthritis (OA) cartilage, suggesting that different sugars are associated with damaged tissue compared to healthy tissue.

The study, led by PhD student Olivia Lee and her supervisor Associate Professor Paul Anderson, could potentially explain why cartilage degrades at different rates in the body and aid in the search for a biomarker indicating the severity of cartilage damage, a media release from University of South Australia notes.

“Despite its prevalence in the community, there is a lot about osteoarthritis that we don’t understand. It is one of the most common degenerative joint diseases, yet there are limited diagnostic tools, few treatment options and no cure.”

— Paul Anderson

Existing OA biomarkers are still largely focused on bodily fluids which are neither reliable nor sensitive enough to map all the changes in cartilage damage.

Tissue-Level Understanding

By understanding the biomolecular structure at the tissue level and how the joint tissues interact in the early stages of osteoarthritis, UniSA researchers say that any molecular changes could be targeted to help slow the progression of the disease with appropriate medication or treatment.

In a recent paper published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Lee and her colleagues from UniSA’s Musculoskeletal Biology Research Laboratory and the Future Industries Institute explore how advances in mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) to detect OA are promising.

“To date, diagnosing osteoarthritis has relied heavily on x-rays or MRI, but these provide limited information and don’t detect biomolecular changes that signal cartilage and bone abnormalities. By contrast, alternative imaging methods such as MSI can identify specific molecules and organic compounds in the tissue section.”

— Olivia Lee

MSI has already demonstrated its strengths in identifying biomarkers for different types of cancer, and UniSA researchers are hopeful it can achieve the same for early diagnosis of osteoarthritis, the release notes.

[Source(s): University of South Australia, Science Daily]

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