New Evidence Linking Obesity and Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis is a condition affecting millions of adults.  The break-down of cartilage in the joints can be painful and debilitating. It is widely accepted that overweight individuals are at higher risk for developing osteoarthritis. The assumption has been that this was due to the higher amount of force placed on the joints which then contributed to the breakdown of tissue.

However, according to research presented at the Orthopaedic Research Society's (ORS) Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, there may be more to blame than extra weight on the joint.

James Nishimuta and Marc Levenston from the Mechanical Engineering Department 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," 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."

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