Bone marrow lesions 'can help predict progression of joint disease'
Published on 18 January 2016
A new UK study has demonstrated that lesions found in the bone marrow could be used to predict the progression of joint diseases.
The University of Southampton's Medical Research Council (MRC) Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit has determined that these lesions, which can be seen clearly on MRI scans, could be monitored to help identify individuals who are more likely to suffer from more rapidly progressing osteoarthritis.
This conclusion was based on data from the SEKOIA study, a major international osteoarthritis disease-modifying trial, which involved the use of MRI scans on the knees of 176 men and women over the age of 50, who were then followed up for an average of three years with repeated knee X-rays.
Results published in the Journal of Rheumatology showed that individuals with bone marrow lesions on their MRI scan generally experienced more rapid osteoarthritis progression than those that did not.
On average, the space within the joint is lost at a rate of 0.15 mm per year, yet individuals with signs of lesions had a loss rate that was 0.10 mm per year faster than those without, potentially meaning joint replacements or other interventions will be required earlier.
Study leader Dr Mark Edwards, clinical lecturer in rheumatology at the University of Southampton's MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, said: "If we can identify those people who may experience a rapid progression of the disease, this may be of benefit to both physicians and patients.
"The next step would be to explore the mechanisms through which bone marrow lesions might influence the progression of osteoarthritis and whether this could lead to a novel treatment."
Dr Katherine Free, our research liaison and communications manager, said: "Currently, it is not possible to predict how rapidly osteoarthritis will develop. Understanding the drivers of osteoarthritis progression and being able to predict this at an early stage would have a positive impact for management of the condition, as well as finding better and more tailored treatments for individual patients.
"We are currently funding research in this area focused on key molecules involved in osteoarthritis development to see whether these have potential as new drug targets that could hold the key to slowing down disease progression."