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Interactions between adipose tissue and bone mineral density in obesity


Funding: Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme

Supervisor: Dr Philip McTernan, Associate Professor (CSRI)

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic syndrome characterised by joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. It is the most common form of arthritis, affecting some 12% of the US population, and is consequently a major cause of long-term disability (Kumar & Levy, 2002). Although its aetiology is poorly understood, two contributing factors have been identified. The first is excess load bearing on the joint as in high impact activities such as running. The second is altered bone or cartilage physiology as observed in a wide range of congenital, metabolic, endocrine, and neuropathic disorders (Mankin et al, 1986).

One significant risk factor for developing OA is obesity. As obese patients tend to develop knee OA, the relationship is often explained by mechanical factors – i.e. excessive load on the joint induces cartilage degeneration. However, this explanation cannot adequately satisfy the observation that obese patients are also predisposed to OA of the carpometacarpo joints of the hands. These joints are not clearly over-loaded but nevertheless suffer cartilage degeneration in obese patients (Cicuttini et al, 1996). This suggests a metabolic and/or endocrine relationship between obesity and OA.


The current literature review identifies and evaluates potential metabolic causes of osteoarthritis in obese patients.