Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a highly debilitating disease of the joints and can lead to severe pain and disability. There is no cure for OA. Current treatments often fail to alleviate its symptoms leading to an increased demand for joint replacement surgery. Previous epidemiological and genetic research has established that OA is a multifactorial disease with both environmental and genetic components. Over the past 6 years, a candidate gene study and several genome-wide association scans (GWAS) in populations of Asian and European descent have collectively established 15 loci associated with knee or hip OA that have been replicated with genome-wide significance, shedding some light on the aetiogenesis of the disease. All OA associated variants to date are common in frequency and appear to confer moderate to small effect sizes. Some of the associated variants are found within or near genes with clear roles in OA pathogenesis, whereas others point to unsuspected, less characterised pathways. These studies have also provided further evidence in support of the existence of ethnic, sex, and joint specific effects in OA and have highlighted the importance of expanded and more homogeneous phenotype definitions in genetic studies of OA.
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