Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis or OA results from a combination of genetic abnormalities and joint injuries. In this disorder, the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones deteriorates, causing pain and loss of muscle function. While age is a major risk factor for developing osteoarthritis, the disease is not just an inevitable consequence of aging. Other risk factors include major joint trauma, repetitive stress, and obesity. Symptoms of OA can range from painful to completely disabling, and current treatment regimens are palliative rather than curative. There is no current cure for osteoarthritis. Various treatment options can help alleviate the symptoms. Pain-killers and anti-inflammatory agents are the mainstay of drug therapy. However, therapy and lifestyle changes can also reduce the symptoms of the disease. Surgery, including joint replacement, is used when all else has failed.
The recognition that genetic factors contribute substantially to the risk of osteoarthritis (OA) in the population has been important in changing the perception of the disease away from the view that it is the result of passive mechanical degeneration and towards the concept that it is driven by an active disease process in the joint. Advances in molecular genetic technology are enabling researchers to identify and characterise the function of specific genes involved in the disease. Using genome-wide association scan (GWAS) studies we can identify genes involved in OA pathogenesis, risk and progression. This genome wide approach will identify novel genes involved in the disease risk and progression. By investigating the function of those genes in vitro assays and animal models TREAT-OA will also deepen our understanding of the underlying molecular pathways associated with the disease.