/publications/issue/2007/2007-06/2007-06-6576

ARTHRITIS WATCH

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Alignment of Knee Does Not Affect OA Risk
Malalignment of the knee does not give an indication of a future risk of osteoarthritis (OA), but it may indicate OA severity or progression in those who already have the disease. Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine concluded that ?abnormalities in frontal plane knee alignment are typically a consequence and not a primary cause of OA.? The findings were published in Arthritis & Rheumatism (April 2007).

The investigators examined data on participants in the Framingham OA Study to determine whether malalignment was linked to the development of OA of the knee within ~9 years. The study included 110 osteoarthritic knees of 76 patients, and 356 knees of 178 healthy patients.

None of the participants had OA at baseline (between 1992 and 1994), but the 76 OA patients had developed the disease at follow-up (between 2002 and 2005). After taking into account age, sex, and body mass index, the researchers found that the anatomic alignment of patients? knees had no effect on their consequent development of OA.

More Older Americans Are Affected with Arthritis
As America?s baby boomers enter the Medicare years, they may find themselves spending more of their health care dollars treating arthritis and other rheumatic conditions.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which covered the time between 1997 and 2003, found a 25% jump in the number of American adults who have arthritis and other related ailments. More than 46 million people in the United States have some form of arthritis, compared with 36.8 million in 1997. The total yearly cost of caring for these patients is almost $81 billion.

Leading the way in this new wave of arthritis patients are the baby boomers. Of the 9 million newly diagnosed arthritis patients during the 6-year study, 66% of them were aged 44 to 64 years. The researchers were also concerned about the presence of other chronic diseases in these patients, such as diabetes or heart conditions. Arthritis was 28% more prevalent in these patients, compared with a 6% increase in those who were otherwise healthy. The most prevalent comorbidity was being overweight or obese.

Officials at the CDC encourage health programs to help aging boomers improve their food consumption and ability to exercise to help them stave off the rising costs of arthritis in the future. The findings were published in the May 2007 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Go Green to Relieve Arthritis Pain
A new study suggested that a compound in green tea may provide therapeutic benefits to patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study looked at epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a potent anti-inflammatory compound in the tea that inhibits the production of molecules in the immune system that contribute to inflammation and joint damage in RA patients.

The researchers isolated cells called synovial fibroblasts from the joints of RA patients. These cells were then stimulated with a protein of the immune system that helps destroy joints in RA patients. The researchers found that, when they pretreated the cells with EGCG, it inhibited the production of joint-destroying molecules. The compound also hindered the formation of prostaglandin E2, which causes inflammation in the joints. The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology 2007 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, on April 29.

Heredity May Affect RA Patients? Death Risk
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who carry certain genetic traits may be at a heightened risk of early death from heart disease or cancer. Researchers in the United Kingdom conducted a study to determine whether the genetic variants HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE) were associated with early mortality and specific causes of death in RA patients. They tracked 767 patients with RA for 18 years, and during that time 187 of the participants died. The 2 leading causes of death were heart disease and cancer.

Of those patients who died of these 2 causes, 29 had 2 of the HLA-DRB1 SE variant genes. The researchers noticed that those RA patients with these variants died younger, compared with other RA patients, especially if they died of ischemic heart disease. It was noted that the patients with the 2 SE gene types had no clinical evidence of heart disease up to 1 year before they died of a heart attack. The researchers concluded that further study is needed to fully explain the link between the 2 gene types and the increased risk of death from heart disease or cancer in RA patients. The results of the study were published in the May 2007 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.