Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating degenerative joint disease particularly affecting weightbearing joints within the body, principally the hips and knees. Current radiographic techniques are insufficient to show biochemical changes within joint tissue which can occur many years before symptoms become apparent. The need for better diagnostic and prognostic tools is heightened with the prevalence of OA set to increase in aging and obese populations. As inflammation is increasingly being considered an important part of OAs pathophysiology, cytokines are being assessed as possible candidates for biochemical markers. Cytokines, both pro- and anti-inflammatory, as well as angiogenic and chemotactic, have in recent years been studied for relevant characteristics. Biochemical markers show promise in determination of the severity of disease in addition to monitoring of the efficacy and safety of disease-modifying OA drugs, with the potential to act as diagnostic and prognostic tools. Currently, the diagnostic power of interleukin (IL)-6 and the relationship to disease burden of IL-1β, IL-15, tumor necrosis factor-α, and vascular endothelial growth factor make these the best candidates for assessment. Grouping appropriate cytokine markers together and assessing them collectively alongside other bone and cartilage degradation products will yield a more statistically powerful tool in research and clinical applications, and additionally aid in distinguishing between OA and a number of other diseases in which cytokines are known to have an involvement. Further large scale studies are needed to assess the validity and efficacy of current biomarkers, and to discover other potential biomarker candidates.
Keywords: Biomarker; Cytokines; Interleukin; Knee osteoarthritis.