COLUMBIA, MO - 10/30/06 - University of Missouri-Columbia researchers have identified telltale, genetic signs that indicate the early onset of arthritis in dogs.
COLUMBIA, MO - 10/30/06 - University of Missouri-Columbia researchers have identified telltale, genetic signs that indicate the early onset of arthritis in dogs. Researchers hope to identify arthritis as early as possible in an effort to reverse its progression.
"There's no current cure for arthritis, but that's because we can't diagnose the disease while it is in a stage that is reversible," says James Cook, a professor of veterinary medicine and surgery and the William C. Allen Endowed Scholar for Orthopaedic Research at the University of Missouri. "While some researchers are looking at various biomarkers in blood and other bodily fluids, we've identified 16 genes in the cartilage that may be involved with the onset of the disease."
Cook is examining dogs that have the disease. While it might take years for humans to develop arthritis, dogs develop the signs and symptoms of the disease at a much faster rate. In his study, Cook uses specific MRI, arthroscopy and biochemical techniques to identify problems associated with arthritis, such as bone and cartilage damage. Then he identifies the genetic changes that correlate with the damage.
"The specific injury that we are studying leads to articular cartilage degradation, or damage to the cartilage in the knee," Cook says. "This degradation is the hallmark of osteoarthritis, and while we can accurately assess clinical changes associated with the degradation of arthritis, we cannot clinically assess the initiating events that occur in the potentially reversible stages of disease. Through our research, we have found specific genes that are expressed in the areas where degradation will subsequently occur, which may allow us to accurately predict the extent and severity of how the arthritis will develop."
Cook is collaborating with Aaron Stoker, the Robert B. Gordon Arthritis Research Fellow in the MU Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory (COL) and expert in cartilage gene expression and researchers from Virtual Scopics, LLC in Rochester, N.Y.