The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Multifaceted data collection to interpret aetiology of joint osteoarthritis in the human skeleton


Anthropology, University of Victoria

March 26, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 4 Add to calendar

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease in human populations with onset and severity influenced by mechanical loading, aging effects, genetics, anatomy, and body mass. As a result, OA generally presents as hypertrophic changes at articular surfaces of synovial joints, but its pathogenesis remains unclear. Understanding the patterning of OA is important to recognize inherent complexities of the disease, but further research is also necessary to understand the role of physical activity and features of osseous change.The multifactorial aetiology of OA requires the incorporation of multiple lines of evidence to interpret individual or population health from bone samples.

Varied approaches to data collection present a number of challenges and benefits. While the challenges include aspects such as statistical design involving diverse data types, one of the most important benefits of integrating different datasets is the ability to address questions that underlie previous assumptions about how to interpret OA in the human skeleton, and to test those assumptions. For example, combining long bone 3D surface laser scans with documented occupational categories allows us to test the assumption that occupation categories reflect activity (e.g. mechanical loading levels). Examining the relationship between activity and joint OA affords us a contextually specific biocultural lens into the past. Bioarchaeology is a comparative science and research methods of OA must draw upon data from the analysis of several sources to evaluate the complex interactive process between humans and their social, cultural and physical worlds.

Funding provided by the Canadian Institute of Health Research Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (SC), and by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (HK)