Novel study identifies biomarkers that could aid meniscal injury diagnosis in dogs

15 January 2024

New research is the first of its kind to identify biomarkers of meniscal injury within the stifle joint synovial fluid of dogs, which could lead to the development of a new method of diagnosing meniscal injuries.

Meniscal injuries can cause ongoing pain and lameness and typically occur due to instability in the stifle joint secondary to cranial cruciate ligament rupture (CCLR). Late meniscal injuries after CCLR surgery are particularly challenging to diagnose because techniques either lack sensitivity, require expensive specialised equipment and/or advanced technical expertise (as is the case with imaging techniques) or have inherent risks to the patient (with surgical diagnosis). Therefore, the development of a simple, minimally invasive diagnostic test could increase reliability at diagnosing meniscal injuries without surgical intervention.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice (JSAP), collected samples of stifle joint synovial fluid (a viscous fluid that lubricates the joints) from 154 dogs undergoing stifle joint surgery for either CCLR (with or without meniscal injuries) or medial patella luxation. The samples then underwent a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to determine whether any small molecule metabolites significantly changed depending on the meniscal injury status of the dog.

The results showed that areas on the spectra related to lipid resonances termed ‘mobile lipids’ were significantly higher in the synovial fluid of dogs with meniscal injury than those without.

This identification of potential biomarkers of meniscal injury could allow for the development of a simple, inexpensive, minimally invasive test, to diagnose meniscal injuries and reduce the need for surgical diagnosis.

Christine Pye, lead author of the study, said: “Late meniscal injuries in dogs can be a challenge to diagnose in practice without surgical intervention, and the availability of a minimally invasive test by means of a joint tap to diagnose meniscal injuries would be very useful in these cases. Our study found increases in lipid particles in the synovial fluid of dogs with meniscal injuries compared to those without. Future studies to identify the exact lipid species involved could lead to a biomarker discovery for meniscal injuries in dogs with CCLR. We would like to thank BSAVA PetSavers for providing the funding for this research, without which this work would not have been possible”.

Access the full study here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jsap.13688.

The study was funded by BSAVA PetSavers, the grant awarding arm of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association. It is funded solely by charitable donations and has invested more than £2 million in vital clinical research and training programmes over the past 40 years to advance clinical investigations into pet animal medicine and surgery. For further information visit: http://new.bsava.com/petsavers.