Spotlight on Research for 2006

September 2006 (historical)

Mechanical Stress Can Affect OA Biomarker Release

Two separate NIAMS-funded studies involving osteoarthritis (OA) biomarkers have revealed that mechanical stress can affect their release. OA biomarkers are substances in the body whose presence may reflect onset, severity or progression of the disease. One study looked at differences in cartilage- and bone-related biomarker release in different kinds of athletes, and the other at the influence of controlled mechanical compression on biomarker release in normal cartilage.

David Eyre, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Washington measured cartilage- and bone-derived urinary OA biomarkers in college rowers, runners and swimmers. The study included 60 athletes and 16 nonathlete controls. Biomarker analysis revealed some significant differences among the participants: cross-country athletes were associated with the highest degradation in cartilage, whereas rowers were linked to the greatest bone cell turnover.

In a separate study, Farshid Guilak, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Duke University Medical Center tested whether mechanical stress on cartilage from pigs influences the release of OA-related biomarkers. Cartilage removed from pigs underwent various compressive stresses, mimicking human physical strain. The results showed that cartilage undergoing greater magnitudes of mechanical stress released increased levels of OA-related biomarkers.

Both studies indicate that mechanical factors can increase the production and release of OA-related biomarkers. The research highlights the importance of considering the type and degree of physical activity in which OA patients partake when analyzing biomarkers.

Dr. Eyre's research was also funded by the University of Washington; Dr. Guilak's study received additional funding from the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Duke University.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site at

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O'Kane JW, et al. Sport-related differences in biomarkers of bone resorption and cartilage degradation in endurance athletes. OsteoArthritis and Cartilage 2006;14:71-76.

Piscoya JL, et al. The influence of mechanical compression on the induction of osteoarthritis-related biomarkers in articular cartilage explants. OsteoArthritis and Cartilage 2005;13:1092-1099.