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New Method Helps Detect Arthritic Conditions Early

07 July 2015

UK - Arthritic conditions are one of the commonest causes of morbidity and pain for which there is currently no cure. It is also of major concern for the management of joint pain in large and small companion animals.

There is progressive degeneration of the smooth lubricating cartilage at the end of bones over many years (often >2 decades), which results in friction and painful movement of the joint.

The erosion of the cartilage often results in the need for artificial joint replacement. The prolonged course of the disease has a major impact on patients and on healthcare costs.

The main impediment to developing treatments is the inability to measure early stages of the disease than is currently possible. Technological advances in imaging of joint disease would significantly benefit patients and healthcare services through reduction in care costs, surgical procedures and clinician time.

The Royal Veterinary College has recently developed a novel method to identify early alterations in the chemical makeup of the cartilage using an optical method known as Raman spectroscopy.

Laser light is used to illuminate the cartilage and the scattered photons are captured to create a light spectrum that can reveal disease-associated changes much earlier than is currently possible with routine radiology (X-ray) or by specialist MRI.

In work funded by the NIHR the RVC have demonstrated in a small experimental study that the technology can be adapted for clinical use to identify early and late phase of disease during routine exploratory arthroscopic examination of knees of patients with osteoarthritic complaints.

Developing the technology

RVC research has indicated the potential for clinical applications however the technology remains at an early stage to fully develop into a clinical device.

In a new initiative to advance technological innovations for orthopaedic conditions, Arthritis Research UK has funded our work to advance the technology towards a functional clinical device.

The work will enable us to consolidate the technology as a beneficial medical application to bring it closer to market so that it is best placed to license to an orthopaedic sector company for final device development.

The technology could potentially benefit related but less onerous medical applications such as regenerative medicine and tissue engineering where non-destructive testing of materials would be extremely useful.

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