Bone marrow lesions in the knee, a cause of pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis, may be hereditary. A study published today in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy reveals that there is a significant genetic component to the occurrence and severity of bone marrow lesions in the tibia and femur. The study also shows that bone marrow lesions are more common in men and increase with age and weight.
Guangju Zhai, from St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK and colleagues from institutions in Australia studied 115 siblings from 48 families with a history of osteoarthritis. Zhai et al. used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess bone marrow lesions in the subjects. The authors then calculated the heritability estimates - or the extent to which they are hereditary - for bone marrow lesions in lateral and medial tibia and femur.
The results of Zhai et al.'s study show that the heritability estimate was 99% for the prevalence of bone marrow lesions in both lateral and medial compartments of the bones. The heritability estimates for the severity of bone marrow lesions are 53% for lateral bones and 65% for medial bones, after adjustment for age, sex, height, weight, muscle strength, knee pain and knee alignment.
The authors conclude that further studies to identify the gene(s) responsible for bone marrow lesions may help in the prevention and management of knee pain in osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.
Familial, structural, and environmental correlates of MRI-defined bone marrow lesions: A Sibpair Study
Guangju Zhai, James Stankovich, Flavia Cicuttini, Changhai Ding and Graeme Jones
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2006, (in press)