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New Evidence Linking Obesity and Osteoarthritis

Biomolecules in fat tissue contribute to joint breakdown (Jan. 28)

Osteoarthritis (OA) affects millions of adults. The breakdown of cartilage in the joints can be painful and debilitating. It is widely accepted that overweight individuals are at higher risk for developing OA. The assumption has been that this was because of the higher amount of force placed on the joints, which then contributed to the breakdown of tissue.

However, according to new findings presented at the annual meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society in San Antonio, Texas, there may be more to blame than extra weight on the joint.

Researchers at Stanford University in California have been investigating the effects of adipokines on osteoarthritis. Adipokines are biomolecules produced by fat tissue.

“Over the past decade,” Dr. James Nishimuta explained, “we have learned that adipokines at high levels have been linked to many obesity-related health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In our study, we examined how adipokines can contribute to the breakdown of joint tissues. In particular, we wanted to see if the effects on cartilage and meniscus are different.”

The new study showed that the meniscus is much more sensitive to tissue breakdown induced by adipokines than cartilage. The researchers are working to determine whether the combination of high force and adipokines have any interaction in tissue breakdown. The new findings could pave the way for novel biologic pathways that could help with detection or therapeutic intervention, according to the investigators.

Source: Orthopaedic Research Society; January 28, 2013.

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