Osteoarthritis may not be inevitable for all of us. Over the past twenty years or so researchers have identified several environmental risk factors and identified some regions in the genome associated with the disease. Figuring out who’s at risk of osteoarthritis (OA), and who may be protected means that researchers will have to identify OA at when the earliest molecular changes occur, perhaps decades before any bone and cartilage destruction can be seen on x-ray.
Determining abnormalities that reveal the disease closer to its starting point could be accomplished with biomarkers at the molecular level. Right now though, no reliable biochemical markers are available to detect such changes. Biomarkers are required to detect early OA for intervention and to monitor disease progression after treatment; and to help scientists understand OA and normal cartilage to determine the research and patient priorities of clinicians, industry, and basic scientists.
The OA Biomarker Global Initiative aims to develop such biomarkers facilitated by a series of workshops designed to bring together a worldwide group of scientists interested in OA Biomarkers. The Initiative began after the National Institute on Musculoskeletal Diseases (NIAMS) supported a call for grants for biomarkers. From that round of funding came three meetings held from 2004 to 2006. From this effort came the OA Biomarker Global Initiative, which was developed as a partnership with Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) and the Arthritis Foundation. In 2008 the group became official initiative of OARSI and then partnered with the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine and the Orthopaedic Research Society. The National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases also funds the meetings.
The goal of these meetings is to provide a forum for interchange for information and ideas among members of the biomarker community; to provide structure for biomarker discovery and use; to provide resources to move the field ahead; to provide white papers guidelines and validation for use in the field and to keep the field moving ahead. The Initiative fosters an environment in which an international group of people can attend the meeting equally; grants and private contributions pay for registration fees.
Workshop 1: Biochemical Biomarker: Biology, Validation and Clinical Studies
April 23-24, 2009, Bethesda, MD
Report from the Meeting: Kraus, VG, Nevitt M, Sandell LJ, Osteoarthritis and Cartilage,2010 18:742-745.
The first of the series of recently funded meetings was held in April of 2009, in Bethesda. The group established the way forward by adopting a new definition of OA by pushing the definition back from what would be considered joint death (the point at which total joint replacement is needed) to molecular changes that occur in pre-radiographic RA.
Finding biochemical biomarkers at this state will allow researchers to identify disease-modifying therapies. Since the 2009 meeting the group has developed guidelines for sample collection and established a website for sharing information.
Most recently, a group of 125 people from across the globe gathered in Atlanta on November 4 and 5 for the 2nd OARSI Biomarkers workshop titled Genetics and Genomics: New Targets in OA. Data presented in Atlanta gave attendees a peek at genomic studies including some OA susceptibility genes currently under study. Identifying such genes will proved molecular targets for OA therapies and will help define families at risk for the disease. To assist in identifying cohorts used in genetic studies, the group will set up a clearance house at the OARSI website to allow an overview of current available studies and data.
Workshop 3: Imaging Biomarker Validation & Qualification - Combined with the 6th International Workshop on OA Imaging
July 12-14, 2012, Hilton Head Island, SC
Additional Biomarkers Information
NIH White Paper: The Osteoarthritis Initiative
Robin Poole, PhD, DSc
Rome Biomarkers Workshop
Program and Slides