Dividing osteoarthritis patients into groups
Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder, especially in the elderly. In its Priority Medicines Report, the World Health Organization calls for additional research, but so far little is known about its cause and course and no real treatment is available.

The difficulty is that the course of the disease can be different in separate patients. In one patient it is a rapid and aggressive disease while in another the degeneration of bone and cartilage can take years. This possibly is the result different underlying mechanisms for the cause of the disease. This project investigates the role of fat tissue as well as the membrane surrounding joints on the development and progression of osteoarthritis. So far, links have been found between obesity and the development of the disease. With the results of this research, patients can be divided into groups according to the manner of development of osteoarthritis. This can possibly result in a more focused treatment of patients.

Fast facts
Full project title: Osteoarthritis: models, mechanisms and markers for patient stratification
Start date: January 2008
End date: January 2013
Goal: Understanding the workings of osteoarthritis, predicting the course of the disease and optimize the efficiency of clinical trials by improving the division of patients into treatment groups
Principal investigator: Margreet Kloppenburg
Project size: 7 FTE's
Partners: Centocor, Erasmus MC (University Medical Center Rotterdam), Leiden University Medical Center, TNO


Osteoarthritis is the most common version of arthritis and can particularly be found among elderly people. The disease is present in almost everyone by age 70. When becoming older the production of cartilage decreases while its degradation increases, resulting in a lack of cartilage in the joints. In some cases the cartilage has even completely disappeared. The fluid in the joints, necessary to keep the joint operating smoothly, usually also decreases in patients with osteoarthritis. The wearing of the cartilage and loss of fluids exposes the bones and causes them to damage. As a result patients experience pain, limited range of motion, stiffness, and tenderness. 

The cause is not yet completely understood, but believed to be a result of a combination of environmental, genetic, and biomechanical stress. Treatment, to date, is mainly symptomatic and focuses on relief of pain and maintenance of mobility. A major advance, even though being directed and limited to the joint area only, has been surgical joint replacement. 

Due to the aging of the population osteoarthritis is being forecast as becoming the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide. 

PhD theses from this project

Erlangga Yusuf (project T1-213)
On How Obesity Links with Osteoarthritis

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