Genes May Hold Key to Arthritis
University of Maryland Medical Center researchers are searching for osteoarthritis in the gene pool. They say understanding the genetic link may help find more effective treatments for the disease.
The medical center is part of an international multi-center study in the United States and England that looks at the roots of osteoarthritis -- believed to be hereditary -- which affects 21 million Americans. The three-year study will include about 1,400 families who have two or more siblings with primary generalized osteoarthritis, which affects the hands, hips, knees and spine.
Dr. March Hochberg at the University of Maryland says by analyzing DNA and health histories of study participants, researchers should be able to determine which genes are responsible for osteoarthritis. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones deteriorates, causing pain and a loss of mobility.
Age is a major risk factor but other factors include trauma to the joints, repetitive stress and obesity. With osteoarthritis, pain is aggravated when you use a joint, like in walking or climbing stairs. There is no cure, but there are painkillers and anti-inflammation drugs to ease symptoms -- with joint replacement surgery as a last resort.
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