Big Science Computer Modeling Can Tell Overweight People about the Onset of Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of joint disease and knee osteoarthritis is one of the more common presentations of the condition in overweight individuals.

Being able to predict the onset of knee osteoarthritis, and its progression, would naturally come with various benefits since it would allow doctors to address at-risk patients with better precision in order to mitigate the worst effects of the disease. A form of computational modeling described in a study from the University of Eastern Finland may be able to do just that.

Osteoarthritis affects about five percent of the world’s population and often develops as a consequence of aging or due to excessive weight or injury to a knee or hip joint. Since osteoarthritis is estimated to have cost Americans about $51.1 billion in healthcare costs in 2004 alone, there is a great deal of financial value in preventative treatments. Part of prevention is, naturally, being able to identify the people who are most in need of the approach.

The Finnish researchers made use of a computational modeling method—a type of simulation—that took into account the tissue and collagen levels of the knee’s cartilage in order to track and map out the changes that the cartilage goes through during knee osteoarthritis. This model simulated the effects of different types of cartilage composition, structure, weight loads, shape and response of cartilage cells, and various other elements. In other words, the simulator takes a great deal into account when making its predictions.

The idea behind the computational model is that it could be used to produce an in-depth window into a patient’s current and probable future situation. This would allow for enhanced recognition, prevention, and delaying of joint disease.

What the study attempted to do was to take this model and past research and combine the information to assess whether the model could be a valid tool for studying the onset of knee osteoarthritis. What it found is that, during the four-year follow-up period, computational modeling was able to predict the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis in overweight individuals. The normal-weight subjects, however, did not develop osteoarthritis during the study period. This doesn’t necessarily mean the model won’t work for those of normal weight, just that it wasn’t possible to validate it during this particular study.

What This Means

The computational modeling method still needs to be further tested and validated in real-world conditions with actual patients to see just how accurate it is. From the information that currently exists, however, it seems capable of predicting the onset of knee osteoarthritis with some level of confidence in overweight people. Should the model get refined further, it may also be applicable to other forms of joint disease. Whether this is actually possible, only time and research can tell.

Source for Today’s Article:

“Computational Modelling Can Predict Onset and Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis in Overweight People,” University of Eastern Finland web site, July 6, 2016;