News | August 26, 2021

Milestone In Osteoarthritis

Researchers have identified both new genetic risk factors and drug targets for the previously incurable joint disease osteoarthritis. The study comes from an international research group led by the Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Osteoarthritis affects more than 300 million people worldwide. The disease manifests itself through an increasing degeneration of the cartilage on the joint surface. This leads to chronic pain and stiffness in the joints and is a major cause of disability. To date, no cure has been possible. A better understanding of the causes of the disease and the development of new treatment methods are therefore urgently needed and are eagerly awaited by those affected.

The potential of great studies
In the largest osteoarthritis study to date (with over 825,000 people from 9 different population groups), an international research group led by the Helmholtz Zentrum München identified new genetic risk factors and promising drug targets for the disease. The findings can flow directly into drug development. “We now know a lot more about the genetic basis of this serious and stressful disease. That would not have been possible without our extensive international collaboration, ”says Eleftheria Zeggini, Director of the Institute for Translational Genomics at the Helmholtz Center in Munich and Professor at the Technical University of Munich.

More osteoarthritis puzzles solved
As part of the study, the researchers also discovered previously unknown differences in the risk of disease for joints with and without weight load. They also identified the first genetic risk factors specifically in women and for early onset of the disease. Furthermore, for the first time they found a genetic connection between osteoarthritis and its main symptom, pain.

New drug targets
By linking various clues to one another, the researchers were able to identify certain genes that are likely to trigger the development of the disease. This could potentially target these genes for drug treatment. Many of these genes contain the building instructions for molecules that are active ingredient lines for drugs that have already been approved or are in clinical development. The new findings significantly strengthen the evidence of the effectiveness of these drugs and offer them new uses.

About The Research Group
This is the first study by the “Genetics of Osteoarthritis” consortium, an international research group that aims to better understand the genetic basis of osteoarthritis and related characteristics. To this end, the group wants to bring together all of the genetic studies on osteoarthritis available worldwide and gain new knowledge from them. The consortium is led by the Helmholtz Zentrum München. For more information, visit

Source: Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen