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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown Researchers Explore Sex Differences in Knee Osteoarthritis Progression

Osteoarthritis is characterized by the progressive destruction of articular cartilage and is strongly and positively associated with chronological age, but the mechanism by which aging contributes to this susceptibility is largely unknown. Recently, the hypothesis has been proposed that accumulation of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) that are associated with cumulative glycemic exposure, oxidative stress, and aging might explain some or most of this association. AGEs are the endproducts of spontaneous reactions of reducing sugars with proteins, or non-enzymatic glycation found in tissues throughout the human body.

[Photo: Dr. Charles Eaton]

The purpose of this study, led by Dr. Charles Eaton, Professor of Epidemiology, Professor of Family Medicine, and Director of the Center for Primary Care and Prevention, was to explore the sex differences in the association of skin AGEs with knee osteoarthritis progression. Dr. Eaton and his colleagues conducted a progressive cohort study of skin AGEs measured non-invasively by skin intrinsic fluorescence and the relationship between skin AGEs and knee osteoarthritis in 160 men and 287 women.

The researchers found that increasing tertiles of skin AGE measured at 36 months were associated with greater joint space narrowing (an indicator of osteoarthritis) over 4 years in men but not in women. The percentage of knees with joint space narrowing at 48 months, by tertiles of skin AGE, were 7.0%, 16.0%, and 17.7% in men, and 11.4%, 14.4%, and 8.4% in women.

While biomechanical factors are clearly involved in the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis, the results of this study suggest that systemic factors including AGEs play a potentially important role in the natural history of osteoarthritis.

This study was published in Arthritis Research & Therapy, Volume 19, Issue 1, 2017.

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