U of S researcher uses synchrotron to unlock arthritis mystery

Arash Panahifar, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, believes he has made an important discovery in detecting the ailment at its earliest stages.

Arash Panahifar is reasearching the causes of osteoarthritis

Arash Panahifar, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan researcher at the University of Saskatchewan believes he has made an important discovery in detecting the ailment at its earliest stages. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC News)

Osteoarthritis is a painful ailment that affects millions of people across the globe.

Right now, doctors are fairly limited in what they can do to treat the disease, mainly because the factors that cause arthritis aren't well known.

Now, Arash Panahifar, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, believes he has made an important discovery in detecting the ailment at its earliest stages.

Panahifar said his research has found bony protrusions forming in the layer of bone right below the cartilage. This research could eventually help pharmaceutical companies develop drugs to prevent arthritis before it begins.

"Bony spurs are forming around the joint at the early stages," he said. "These are painful bone formations around the joint."
University of Saskatchewan synchrotron. (David Shield/CBC)

Panahifar said it's very important to diagnose arthritis early. In advanced cases, many patients are forced to get joint replacement surgery.

"It's diagnosed very late when the cartilage is all gone and destroyed," he said. "And when the cartilage is destroyed, it's not like other tissues. It's done."

He said the U of S synchrotron has been very helpful in his research.

"It's like a giant microscope," he said. "Without the synchrotron, we couldn't have the high resolution, high detail information about the joint."