Specific chromosomal areas are likely to play a role in the inheritance of hand osteoarthritis, a form of the degenerative joint disease that is a major cause of disability in people age 65 and over, according to a recent study co-funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). This is the first large-scale linkage study of hand osteoarthritis in the general U.S. population.
The project, under the leadership of NIAMS grantee David Felson, M.D., M.P.H., of Boston University, was a search for genetic markers linked to the amount of hand osteoarthritis in 684 parents and 793 children from the Framingham Heart Study. Half of the 684 original participants and thirty percent of their children had at least one joint affected by osteoarthritis. Results suggest eight genetic regions linked to hand osteoarthritis. Larger studies are needed to confirm these linkages.
In the future, a test to determine who carries osteoarthritis susceptibility genes could help people reduce their risk for osteoarthritis with lifestyle adjustments. In addition, an understanding of how genes cause osteoarthritis could enhance the development of new treatments. For example, therapy could be individualized based on a person’s genetic predisposition.
By 2030, 20 percent of Americans–about 70 million–will have passed their 65th birthday and will be at significant risk for osteoarthritis.