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40 percent of Europeans have a genetic marker predisposing them to knee osteoarthritis

15 Jun 2015
  • These are the conclusions of a paper on mitochondria DNA haplogroups, which are maternally inherited genetic markers that are unique among the different world population groups 
  • More precisely, subjects belonging to the H mitochondrial haplogroup have a higher predisposition for knee osteoarthritis progression than those belonging to the T haplogroup (which makes up only 10% of the European population) 
  • Knee osteoarthritis has an approximate prevalence of 10% in Spain

Certain genetic markers –mitochondria haplogroups- play a role in the evolution of knee osteoarthritis. More precisely, it is estimated that the H haplogroup, present in 40% of the European population, increases the chance of rapid progression knee osteoarthritis, unlike those having the T haplogroup (only one tenth of the European population). These are the conclusions of a Spanish study that was sponsored by the Spanish Society of Rheumatology (SER, Sociedad Española de Reumatología) and Bioiberica, and presented at the EULAR (EUropean League Against Rheumatism) Congress, held on 10-13 June 2015 in Rome. 

Mitochondrial haplogroups are maternally inherited genetic markers found in the mitochondrial DNA and that characterize the different world population groups. This is because they possess a strong geographic component, as explained by the study’s leading researcher, Dr. Ángel Soto Hermida, from the Rheumatology Group at the Institute for Biomedical Research (INIBIC, Instituto de Investigación Biomédica) from the Corunna University Hospital. 

In his opinion, “…these results corroborate the ones obtained in earlier works investigating North American populations of European origin, that proved that the T haplogroup presented a slower progression in knee osteoarthritis, both at the radiologic as well as the structural levels (variation in cartilage thickness and volume).” 

As for the advantages of this study, in that expert’s opinion, “at the clinical level, knowing whether a patient belongs to the H or T haplogroup allows us to predict the evolution and progression of knee osteoarthritis, thus allowing medical professionals to take preventive measures before the disease becomes more severe”. 

“The main differences between both mitochondrial haplogroups can be found at the functional level, since they present different energy production capacities and oxygen reactive species which are harmful for the cell, among others”, detailed Dr. Soto Hermida. 

Nine Works received grants from the SER and Bioiberica

For the second time, the SER and Bioiberica provided grants to all Spanish specialists having papers on osteoarthritis approved for presentation at the EULAR Congress. These papers had to be developed or associated with a Rheumatology unit, section or service from a Spanish health care center or hospital. Thanks to this initiative, nine healthcare professionals could attend this benchmark international event in the field of Rheumatology, which was held in Rome, Italy, on 10-13 June, for free.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic rheumatic disease. It is one of the most frequent in Spain, and sharply decreases its patients’ quality of life. More precisely, it is estimated that knee osteoarthritis affects some 10 percent of the population, or around five million patients.

The Spanish Society of Rheumatology (SER)

The aim of the SER is to work in close collaboration with all agents in the field of Rheumatology. Towards that end, the SER carries out a number of actions, such as encouraging the study of rheumatic diseases, diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, by developing studies, and supports papers and research projects in Rheumatology that address all issues related to the field of Rheumatology. Furthermore, it provides rheumatic disease patients with support through their collaboration with patients’ associations. Regarding teaching, the SER implements a large number of courses in all fields of rheumatology, as well as hosting two monographic symposiums and an annual congress. The SER currently represents more than 1,700 Spanish professionals and collaborates with all the regional rheumatology societies of the country.


Bioiberica is a Spanish biotech company specializing in osteoarthritis. Its main focus lies in the research and development of efficient drugs against that disease, such as Chondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine, as well as developing products that use genetic and/or environmental data to prevent, diagnose, or treat osteoarthritis.