Knees are vulnerable. As we grow older, they become painful and malfunctioning to such an extent that the common perception of an older person as stooped and having difficulty walking is shaped by the effects of knee osteoarthritis. According to the Danish National Patient Register, knee replacements as the end stage treatment for osteoarthritis are increasing steadily. It looks like the kind of general health problem that is simply not acceptable in a modern society, just as the loss of natural teeth at a young age was combated half a century ago and led to today’s dental care.
Prevention of knee osteoarthritis is addressed in a multidisciplinary cooperation, where a group of researchers from the Department of Materials and Production at Aalborg University are offering an innovative approach and a skillset in biomechanics for the project Innovative Osteoarthritis Interventions, IOI*.
So, will you have to brush your knees every night before bedtime? In a sense, yes.
The idea is to intervene early. Weight loss and strength training during the early stages of osteoarthritis have shown positive results, which indicate that the illness could be slowed down or perhaps even reversed by influencing the internal forces in the knees. This is where biomechanics comes into the picture, as, with the aid of advanced computer models, it is possible to calculate the knee load for a given patient under given conditions. The results can be compared with experimental data, which the project’s external partners have collected.
“With this combined information, we may be able to develop simple interventions that can slow down the development of the illness at an early stage, when people first start noticing pain in their knees aged around 40 to 50,” says project coordinator, Professor John Rasmussen. “Perhaps in the future we will be able to look after our joints throughout our entire life in the same way that we take care of our teeth, which now means that most people get to keep their natural teeth well into old age.”
Arthritis will affect all of us if we grow old enough, so the potential to society is huge, and we need the kind of creativity and innovation which the multidisciplinary cooperation generates.
*IOI is a collaboration between the Department for Materials and Production, the Department of Health Science and Technology, Aalborg University Hospital and the two companies of AnyBody Technology A/S and CCBR A/S. The project is supported by Innovation Fund Denmark.
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