UR Doctor Receives $1.1 Million Grant to Find Cause of Arthritis

April 13, 1999

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Dr. Randy Rosier, M.D.,Ph.D., of the University of Rochester a $1.1 million grant to determine what causes the deterioration of cartilage, a condition that leads to an estimated 20-30 million Americans seeking treatment for osteoarthritis every year.

Osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis, accounting for more than 90 percent of all arthritis cases. It occurs most in the elderly, when cartilage -- the soft, cushioning material between bones in joints -- mysteriously starts degenerating, causing pain as the bones in the joint grind against each other. Eventually, movement of a joint can become so painful that the victim of the disease may be unable to move.

"Our goal is to discover what triggers the deterioration of the cartilage in the first place," says Rosier. "We think that a process that grows bones in youngsters may become improperly switched back on in the elderly. The first step of this process leads to the breakdown of cartilage, and the second step grows new bone. We think that in the elderly, this process starts up, but never goes on to that second step."

Currently, osteoarthritis can only be diagnosed after the disease has done its damage. If Rosier is able to find the root cause of the cartilage breakdown, he plans to create a simple test that can test for osteoarthritis long before any significant damage has occurred. Ultimately, the information gathered from this study could lead to drug treatments that would block the cartilage breakdown at the genetic level, potentially saving millions from suffering from the effects of the disease.

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