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Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is a condition in which cartilage – the tissue that protects the end of each bone in a joint – wears away, causing the underlying bones to rub together. This can cause pain, swelling, and poor joint movement.

As the condition worsens, the bones may lose shape. Additionally, growths called bone spurs may arise, and bits of bone and cartilage can break off and float around the space in the joint. This can trigger an inflammatory response that exacerbates pain, as well as cartilage and bone damage.

OA is the most common form of arthritis in the United States, affecting around 27 million American adults. While the condition can arise in all age groups, it is most common among people aged 65 and older.

There is no cure for OA, only therapies that can help manage symptoms. These include pain and anti-inflammatory medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids. In some cases, joint surgery may be required.

Osteoarthritis is often a factor in workers’ compensation orthopedic claims, especially claims based on a continuous trauma theory. While it is true that OA may be aggravated by work factors, at the same time the permanent disability benefit can be apportioned to causation.

An now a new medical study reveals new information about the causation of OA.

A report in Medical News Today says that researchers have uncovered evidence that cellular senescence – whereby cells stop dividing – is a cause of osteoarthritis, and they suggest targeting these cells could offer a promising way to prevent or treat the condition.

Cellular senescence is the process by which cells stop dividing. Senescent cells accumulate with age and can cause severe damage to tissues and organs, contributing to a number of age-related diseases.

Study co-author Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and colleagues publish their findings in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

“Osteoarthritis has previously been associated with the accumulation of senescent cells in or near the joints, however, this is the first time there has been evidence of a causal link. We believe that targeting senescent cells could be a promising way to prevent or alleviate age-related osteoarthritis. While there is more work to be done, these findings are a critical step toward that goal.”

The concept that there is a relationship between degenerative joint disease and aging is not new. However, apportionment to the aging process is difficult in litigation when faced with arguments that the aging process alone as a causative factor is “speculative.” However, adding an understanding of the cellular mechanism behind degenerative joint disease to the apportionment argument in litigation weighs in on the side that any speculation is now less likely.