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Scanning For The Early Signs Of Osteoarthritis

Posted on: 02 Sep 08

Summary

Scientists have just announced the development of new medical imaging technology that can spot signs of osteoarthritis even before it starts causing joint damage.
Many health problems can be effectively treated and managed if they are caught early enough. But until now, diagnosing the early stage of osteoarthritis – the often cripplingly painful disease that causes damage to the joints and is thought to affect around 8.5m Brits – has been tricky. That's because diagnosis currently relies on x-ray evidence and physical examination, both of which may not spot signs of the disease until it's in its later stages.

However scientists have just announced the development of new medical imaging technology that can spot signs of osteoarthritis even before it starts causing joint damage.
Dr Alexej Jerschow, from New York University, is behind the new diagnosis method, and presented his findings at the recent annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia (i). Dr Jerschow uses an MRI scanner – already commonly used in hospitals – to measure levels of a substance called glycosaminoglycan (GAG). GAG is a polymer that holds a large amount of water and helps make cartilage tough and elastic. Indeed, a low concentration of GAG is linked to the onset of osteoarthritis and other cartilage disorders.
“Our methods have the potential of providing early warning signs for cartilage disorders like osteoarthritis, thus potentially avoiding surgery and physical therapy later on,” says Dr Jerschow.
Nutritional help
Another benefit of the new technology is that it could help detect how effective new and existing osteoarthritis drugs are at combating the disease. A growing number of studies, however, suggest that a nutritional substance called glucosamine – which is commonly used by osteoarthritis sufferers – is effective at both building new cartilage (ii) and helping to relieve joint pain (iii).
Glucosamine makes up 50 percent of the lubricant found within the synovial fluid – the fluid that surrounds your joints – so it’s involved in protecting against joint wear and tear. It helps your body make collagen and maintain healthy connective tissues, all of which is needed for rebuilding and repairing cartilage.
Glucosamine is an active ingredient in supplement called OmegaFlex (www.vegepa.com ). OmegaFlex uses a vegetarian form of glucosamine called glucosamine hydrochloride, which is the most bio-available form (ie. the most easily absorbed). Until recently, most glucosamine supplements were derived from shellfish.
OmegaFlex also contains omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, all of which are considered to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
• Omega-3 fatty acids come in the form of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) from marine fish oil, which some studies have shown reduces inflammation and the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
• Virgin evening primrose oil provides GLA (gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid), which experts believe may improve joint pain and tenderness, plus morning stiffness.
• CLA – or conjugated linoleic acid – another omega-6 fatty acid may help relieve pressure on joints by reducing body fat.
• Meanwhile virgin olive oil (or oleic acid), an omega-9 fatty acid, is also thought to have anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Rita Dores

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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