MRI image for osteoarthritisMonash University is trialling a new treatment it is hoped will slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis. The university is looking for participants who have had knee pain for six months or longer,  be over the age of 50 and able to have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the knee, to take part in the two-year multicentre clinical trial.

The experimental treatment involves a needle infusion of zoledronic acid, which has been found in preliminary data to show a reduction in knee pain and bone marrow lesions. Zoledronic acid has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to treat osteoporosis but has not been approved to treat osteoarthritis.

“We need to see if zoledronic acid has a disease modifying effect in patients,” researcher, Professor Flavia Cicuttini told F2L. She said if it proved to be effective it could delay having knee replacement surgery. “Almost 90 per cent of knee joint replacements surgery is for osteoarthritis.”

Recent research has indicated that for many people osteoarthritis is not only a disease of the cartilage but also the underlying bone. “Because osteoarthritis is a disease of the whole joint it is necessary to maintain a healthy joint and the bone has a major role to play in this,” Professor Cicuttini said.

Risk factors include ageing, obesity and joint injury commonly caused by sporting injuries in young people who are more likely to get subsequent damage later.

In the case of obesity it is not just the “perceived loading of the joint from weight” that inflicts damage but chemicals that produce inflammation in those carrying extra fat around the tummy. “It is these fat producing chemicals that damage the joint,” she said.

Knee osteoarthritis is characterised by the loss of cartilage and there is currently no treatment that slows the condition with conventional treatment mostly symptomatic and costly. It affects around two million Australians and is more common in women than men.

For more information visit: or NSW study co-ordinator: