Scientists get to the bottom of bones and joints

A smart arthroscope for joint endoscopy.

Elbow bone
Elbow bone Image: ShutterStock

Scientists at the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital are working hard to promote maintain functional capacity in old age that mainly relies on musculoskeletal health. Scientists particularly are finding new solutions for the prevention, diagnostics, and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

The best example of it is the recently developed a fiber optics device that uses infrared spectroscopy to accurately assess and diagnose cartilage tissue characteristics during an arthroscopy.

Professor Heikki Kröger from the Institute of Clinical Medicine (Surgery/Orthopaedics) said, “The need to obtain more information from an arthroscopy to support diagnostics and treatment decisions arose from clinical work. This information can directly influence the decisions made in surgery.”

“The device seems to be well suited for primary health care, which is where osteoporosis diagnostics should increasingly be focused on.”

Heikki Kröger has been monitoring the bone health, and lately health in general, of women from menopause to old age. “This has led to collaboration with neurology researchers, among others.”
Heikki Kröger has been monitoring the bone health, and lately health in general, of women from menopause to old age. “This has led to collaboration with neurology researchers, among others.”

During the study with more than 14,000 women since 1989, scientists investigated whether it is possible to prevent falls among elderly women and to enhance their quality of life with the help of an exercise intervention. Every week, half of the intervention participants are offered guided gym training and taiji sessions, and more than 900 women from the OSTPRE study are participating.

Kroger said, “hey have conscientiously responded to our SMS survey about possible falls every two weeks. This leads to the accumulation of very reliable data almost in real time. We are expecting to report our results in spring 2019.”

“We are also studying healthy aging, that is, what kinds of factors contribute to the well-being and good functional capacity in senior years. For example, research has shown that people with the high dietary protein intake will maintain their muscle mass and functional capacity longer.”

Within the research area, the university’s strategic funding is targeted at register research, which is led by Professor Reijo Sund. Over the course of nearly 30 years, masses of data have been collected from the OSTPRE study participants through various surveys and measurements. By combining these data sets with Finland’s nationwide health care registers, researchers can also get new information about factors that are common in different diseases.

Kroger said, “It also includes several clinical trials in Kuopio University Hospital’s Orthopaedics Clinic. At the moment, for example, we are comparing the benefits of hip replacement surgery and rehabilitation.”

Professor Rami Korhonen from the Department of Applied Physics said, “we actually know very little about the pathogenesis and development of osteoarthritis. Research in this field is characterized by multidisciplinary collaboration, and input is needed not only from medical doctors and physicists but also from engineers and biologists, for example.”

“In the future, we can develop better methods to predict the individual progression of the disease, and to plan personalised treatments,” Rami Korhonen says.
“In the future, we can develop better methods to predict the individual progression of the disease, and to plan personalised treatments,” Rami Korhonen says.

“Osteoarthritis has different phenotypes, and these develop differently in different people. This is why it is important to find personalized treatment options for each patient.”

“Imaging and modeling methods are constantly evolving, and research is used to develop diagnostic methods that hopefully will also have an effect on the cost-effectiveness of treatment decisions. A conservative approach may often be the best course of action.”