What can humans learn from moose? A lot about osteoarthrtitis, as it turns out.
Moose and humans develop the degenerative joint disease in much the same ways and with most of the same symptoms.
Osteoarthritis is generally considered a disease caused by the wear and tear of joints over the course of a long life.
But a 50-year study of OA in the moose of Isle Royale in Lake Superior turned up an interesting nugget with implications for both species: Development of the disease correlates with malnutrition, especially in early life.
Over the course of the study, researchers began seeing trends in the disease’s expression. As populations grew, and resources to support them shrank proportionately, more moose developed osteoarthritis. When there were fewer moose, presumably better fed, the disease’s prevalence abated.
Ancient human remains from the onset of agriculture have shown similar arthritic changes. Scientists initially attributed this to the extra work of maintaining fields, but the moose findings suggest malnutrition during the switch to new food sources may have been the true cause.