Current diagnosis methods fail to identify the disease until it is in an advanced stage when joint damage may already have occurred.
The new method uses a modified form of MRI imaging to determine the concentration of a polymer known as glycosaminogycan (GAG), a recognised marker for osteoarthritis.
A low concentration of GAG is known to correlate with the onset of osteoarthritis and other cartilage disorders.
Lead researcher Dr Alexej Jerschow, from New York University, said that a method for early diagnosis could open a window of opportunity for preventing or reducing permanent damage.
The findings were presented this week at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.
236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society
Comment below and tell us what you think