Diagnosis

How can we IMPROVE THE DIAGNOSIS of bone and joint diseases?

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Early Prevention of Rheumatoid Arthritis & Osteoarthritis

Marvin Fritzler, MD is a rheumatologist who received the CIHR Top Achievement in Health Research Award in 2011, and an ASTech award for outstanding contributions to the Alberta Science and Technology Community in 2012. By studying protein markers in blood, Fritzler has identified over twenty new proteins involved in the progression of several autoimmune diseases. Using his latest piece of equipment called the Bio-Flash—which is currently 1 of 4 in the world that is licensed for new clinical diagnostic assay development— Fritzler develops patient-specific biomarker profiles that can be used to diagnose a variety of autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and vasculitis, before irreversible tissue damage has occurred. This technique not only allows for early diagnosis and intervention, which we know dramatically improves the long-term outcome for the patient, but also allows us to identify the most appropriate and effective treatment for that patient. “The goal is to make early and accurate diagnoses in order to develop responsive interventions where we work with patients to mitigate the progression of the disease,” says Fritzler. “This has significant benefits in decreasing the time an individual spends away from living a productive life. At the same time, we are able to recognize significant cost savings because we are able to do state-of-the-art testing right here in Alberta.”

Roman Krawetz, PhD has been collaborating with Fritzler to create innovative techniques for the early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. By analyzing the genetic profiles of stem cells found within the synovial fluid of a patient's joint, Krawetz has discovered that early stages of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can be identified at an accuracy of over 90%. He is currently looking at whether the regenerative capability of the stem cells, which is lost following injury or disease onset, can be restored in order to prevent cartilage destruction  that occurs with ostearthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  This would dramatically reduce the long-term effects of these diseases and ultimately improve the quality of life of the patient.

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Diagnosis using State-of-the-art Devices for Personalized Medical Intervention

Steven Boyd, PhD is a biomedical engineer, recipient of the Bob and Nola Rintoul Chair in Bone and Joint Research and holds a Senior Scholar position from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions. His research focuses primarily on how bone quality changes with the onset and progression of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, and his expertise is in the development of new techniques used for quantitative analysis of medical images. These analysis techniques permit the assessment of bone quality and strength through non-invasive means which could lead to breakthroughs in earlier and more accurate diagnostic techniques.

Boyd founded the Bone Imaging Laboratory that houses a clinical grade XtremeCT to study osteoporosis and other bone-related ailments in people. For more information on his clinical work, please visit http://bonelab.ucalgary.ca. Boyd also uses pre-clinical models to investigate the efficacy of therapeutic interventions on osteoporosis and bone development. Boyd’s goal is to develop novel medical imaging and analysis techniques that will permit personalized medical interventions for those suffering from conditions that compromise bone health. 

Using state-of-the-art MRI and CT imaging, Steven Boyd and Jeff Dunn, PhD are developing better ways to assess bone and joint health. With a specific focus on increasing image resolution and developing innovative ways to scan the patient (such as in a standing position) these advances will allow us to dramatically increase our ability to detect disease onset earlier. These techniques could dramatically improve the lives of those suffering from bone and joint diseases since data suggests that early detection and intervention has a profound impact on reducing long-term disease progression.

Development of Quick Detection Tools

Heather Jamniczky, PhD, Benedikt Hallgrimsson, PhD and Campbell Rolian, PhD were awarded a Canada Foundation for Innovation grant for $236,307 for their study in “Multi-modal, high-throughput 3D biomedical imaging laboratory”. Using the micro magnetic-resonance imaging instrument the research team aims to create an advanced tool for quick detection of abnormalities in animal models that demonstrate similarities to human diseases.  The tool will allow a large number of images to be rapidly gathered and compared to one another, making it easier to spot any abnormalities.  This research will lay the groundwork for the development of similar tools for use in detection and diagnosis of human diseases.