A recent study has identified a florescent probe that could help doctors diagnose osteoarthritis earlier and better track its progression. It could also demonstrate the effectiveness of various osteoarthritis medications.
Researchers from the Tufts University School of Medicine injected a harmless fluorescent molecule into the knee joints of mice. The right knees of 54 mice were injured, while the left knees served as a control group. Every other week for about two months the researchers used optical imaging to detect changes in the fluorescent probe’s signal.
As osteoarthritis progressed through early to moderate stages in the injured knees, the fluorescent signals became brighter and brighter. The healthy knees exhibited a dimmer signal and did not grow brighter over time.
“The fluorescent probe made it easy to see the activities that lead to cartilage breakdown in the initial and moderate stages of osteoarthritis, which is needed for early detection and monitoring of the disease,” said co-first author Dr. Shadi A. Esfahani.
Medical student Averi A. Leahy, also a co-author, added, “Patients are frequently in pain by the time osteoarthritis is diagnosed. The imaging tests most frequently used, X-rays, don’t indicate the level of pain or allow us to directly see the amount of cartilage loss.”
The research team reports that they will next observe the fluorescent probe over a longer period. This will let them see if it produces the same indicative signals during the later stages of osteoarthritis. They hope the treatment could be effective in animals soon and may lead to better human therapies in the future.
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