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Scientists develop blood test for early osteoarthritis detection

By Ryan Maass
Scientists develop blood test for early osteoarthritis detection
The test is capable of detecting various levels of damage in plasma proteins. Photo by the U.S. Marine Corps.

COVENTRY, England, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Doctors may soon be able to use a blood test to diagnose patients with early-stage arthritis years before irreversible symptoms take hold.

The test was developed by researchers from the University of Warwick. Scientists involved with the project say their new procedure will be able to provide an early diagnosis for osteoarthritis in addition to being able to distinguish early-stage rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory joint diseases. A paper on the approach was published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.

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The procedure works by identifying the chemical signatures within the plasma in a patient's blood, and detecting the damage done as a result of oxidation, glycation and nitration. Researchers are confident the new approach will significantly improve the prognosis for a variety of joint inflammatory ailments.

"This is a big step forward for early-stage detection of arthritis that will help start treatment early and prevent painful and debilitating disease," lead researcher Naila Rabbani said in a press release.

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Scientists tested their new technique in an experiment involving 225 patients with both early and advanced-stage osteoarthritis in addition to other joint inflammatory diseases. Participants regularly provided blood samples for analysis as the research team examined them for protein damage.

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"Damage to proteins in the arthritic joint have been known for many years but this is the first time it has been exploited for early-stage diagnosis," Rabbani explained. "For the first time we measured small fragments from damaged proteins that leak from the joint into blood. The combination of changes in oxidised, nitrated and sugar-modified amino acids in blood enabled early stage detection and classification of arthritis -- osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other self-resolving inflammatory joint disease."

The research team estimates patients will have access to the test within two years.

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