Bone Joint Res 2020;9(9):623–632.

Synovial fluid fingerprinting in end-stage knee osteoarthritis

Chethan Jayadev, Philippa Hulley, Catherine Swales, Sarah Snelling, Gary Collins, Peter Taylor, Andrew Price


The lack of disease-modifying treatments for osteoarthritis (OA) is linked to a shortage of suitable biomarkers. This study combines multi-molecule synovial fluid analysis with machine learning to produce an accurate diagnostic biomarker model for end-stage knee OA (esOA).


Synovial fluid (SF) from patients with esOA, non-OA knee injury, and inflammatory knee arthritis were analyzed for 35 potential markers using immunoassays. Partial least square discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) was used to derive a biomarker model for cohort classification. The ability of the biomarker model to diagnose esOA was validated by identical wide-spectrum SF analysis of a test cohort of ten patients with esOA.


PLS-DA produced a streamlined biomarker model with excellent sensitivity (95%), specificity (98.4%), and reliability (97.4%). The eight-biomarker model produced a fingerprint for esOA comprising type IIA procollagen N-terminal propeptide (PIIANP), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1, a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 4 (ADAMTS-4), monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1, interferon-γ-inducible protein-10 (IP-10), and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β3. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis demonstrated excellent discriminatory accuracy: area under the curve (AUC) being 0.970 for esOA, 0.957 for knee injury, and 1 for inflammatory arthritis. All ten validation test patients were classified correctly as esOA (accuracy 100%; reliability 100%) by the biomarker model.


SF analysis coupled with machine learning produced a partially validated biomarker model with cohort-specific fingerprints that accurately and reliably discriminated esOA from knee injury and inflammatory arthritis with almost 100% efficacy. The presented findings and approach represent a new biomarker concept and potential diagnostic tool to stage disease in therapy trials and monitor the efficacy of such interventions.

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