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Personalized treatment

Genetics team named to national top 10 list for arthritis research


By Jeff Green

A pair of Memorial researchers have landed recognition for their innovative studies aimed at transforming the future of arthritis.

Salem Werdyani, PhD student, and Dr. Guangju Zhai, professor, Discipline of Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, are included on the Arthritis Society of Canada’s list of the top 10 research advancements for 2021.

Metabolic markers

The pair studied blood from people living with osteoarthritis — the most common form of arthritis — and discovered three subtypes, fuelling the possibility for personalized treatment.

Using state-of-the-art technology, the researchers examined the metabolomic “fingerprints” in blood from hundreds of people from this province who have osteoarthritis and discovered they could be divided into the three groups with distinct blood markers.

Watch the video below for more on the discovery.

Metabolomics is the study of small chemical compounds present in body fluids. They provide a snapshot of how the body is working.

“We assumed that different groups of osteoarthritis patients have unique metabolic compositions that can be identified by a metabolomics procedure,” Mr. Werdyani explained in the video.

“Our data suggested that three clinically actionable sub-groups existed in osteoarthritis, including muscle weakness, arginine deficiency and inflammatory osteoarthritis. These subtypes can be distinguished by specific blood metabolic markers.”

New targets

Dr. Zhai says their research could make a big difference for people living with osteoarthritis.

Dr. Guangju Zhai wears a high-coloured blue striped shirt.
Dr. Guangju Zhai
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“The results have a great potential in developing clinical actionable tools for stratifying patients for clinical trials and osteoarthritis patient management, as well as providing new targets for developing new drugs for osteoarthritis,” he told the Gazette.

“We are so honoured that our research has been recognized by the Arthritis Society, the only society in Canada that is dedicated to arthritis patients,” said Dr. Zhai, who also thanked Mr. Werdyani for leading the project and writing a research paper focused on the work.

Dr. Siân Bevan, chief science officer with the Arthritis Society, says the top 10 list allows the organization to “shine a spotlight on some of the advances that really stand out.”

“We’re proud to support the researchers who are helping us reach the goal of one day soon extinguishing the fire of arthritis for good,” she said in a posting on the society’s website.

‘Leading-edge research’

Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), is congratulating the pair on their breakthrough.

“Memorial is globally respected for undertaking critical health-related studies aimed at solving challenges facing people around the world,” he said.

“The work of both Mr. Werdyani and Dr. Zhai further enhances our reputation for leading-edge research. Congratulations and well done to both on receiving this national recognition.”

The Arthritis Society is Canada’s largest charitable funder of cutting-edge arthritis research.

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