When it Comes to Self-Repair, Knees Beat Hips

Many of the clients lying on massage tables at any given time might have osteoarthritis; according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis affects 13.9 percent of adults age 25 and older, and 33.6 percent of people age 65 and older.

New research indicates osteoarthritic knee joints are in a constant state of repair—however, hip joints are not.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center used new tools they developed to analyze knees and hips.

“This suggests the knee has capacity for repair we didn’t know about and the main treatment strategy probably would need to focus on turning off the breakdown of knee tissue,” said Virginia Kraus, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Rheumatology and Immunology at Duke, in a university press release. “I was hugely surprised to find this.”

This suggests that knee and hip osteoarthritis may need different treatment approaches, Kraus said.

Perhaps the natural repair response would be sufficient to lead to a reversal or halting of the disease process in the knee if the joint breakdown could be halted, Kraus said.

“At least with the knee you’ve got an ongoing repair response that we didn’t appreciate until now,” Kraus said. “If you could capitalize on that and turn off the degradative (breakdown) processing you might have some good effects.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The next step, the researchers say, is to understand the reasons for the difference between knees and hips and also to use the new tools to analyze the ankle for its level of repair response.

“Why is the ankle less susceptible than the knee to osteoarthritis?” Kraus asked. “Can we develop other tools to be specific indicators of joint health for other joints in the body?”

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