Griffith Innovation for osteoarthritis

Dr Peter Mills (left) and Professor Rod Barrett with a research subject
Dr Peter Mills (left) and Professor Rod Barrett of the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent musculoskeletal disease in the world, affecting one in twelve Australians and costing us more than $10 billion a year.

A Griffith Health Institute study lead by Dr Peter Mills from the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research has been awarded $100,000 to investigate the influence of biomechanical, metabolic and structural factors on the rate of progression of hip joint osteoarthritis.

A key focus is effects of fat tissue mass on osteoarthritis progression.

Learning more about obesity and osteoarthritis

“We know more about the biomechanical effects of obesity on knee than hip osteoarthritis but we know very little about the metabolic effects of obesity on progression of either hip or knee osteoarthritis” said Dr Mills.

“We’ve established a multi-disciplinary team so we can look at the biochemical cause of inflammation or bone geometry or metabolism and really understand this condition and what we can do about it.”

The team is integrating state-of-the-art techniques in musculoskeletal imaging, biochemical analysis of blood and biomechanical measurement of joint loading during walking to better understand the factors that influence the rate of hip joint osteoarthritis progression.

It may not be just about extra weight

“Traditionally, the additional joint loads associated with excess body fat were believed to be the sole reason for the accelerated rate of progression of lower limb osteoarthritis in overweight and obese individuals,” said Dr Mills.

“However, overweight and obese people also have a greater risk of developing osteoarthritis of non-weight bearing joints such as the joints of the hands.

“We now understand that metabolic alterations associated with increased body fat also play a role in the progression of osteoarthritis.

“The rate of progression of osteoarthritis also varies substantially; some people take decades to progress from mild to late stage osteoarthritis, while others deteriorate over just a few years, so there is clearly more going on that we need to learn about.”

It is hoped the findings from this study may help identify risk factors which will help people for future interventions.