Characterization of Articular Cartilage Recovery and Its Correlation with Optical Response in the Near-Infrared Spectral Range

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In this study, we examine the capacity of a new parameter, based on the recovery response of articular cartilage, to distinguish between healthy and damaged tissues. We also investigate whether or not this new parameter correlates with the near-infrared (NIR) optical response of articular cartilage.


Normal and artificially degenerated (proteoglycan-depleted) bovine cartilage samples were nondestructively probed using NIR spectroscopy. Subsequently they were subjected to a load and unloading protocol, and the recovery response was logged during unloading. The recovery parameter, elastic rebound (ER), is based on the strain energy released as the samples underwent instantaneous elastic recovery.


Our results reveal positive relationship between the rebound parameter and cartilage proteoglycan content (normal samples: 2.20 ± 0.10 N mm; proteoglycan-depleted samples: 0.50 ± 0.04 N mm for 1 hour of enzymatic treatment and 0.13 ± 0.02 N mm for 4 hours of enzymatic treatment). In addition, multivariate analysis using partial least squares regression was employed to investigate the relationship between ER and NIR spectral data. The results reveal significantly high correlation (R2cal = 98.35% and R2val = 79.87%; P < 0.0001), with relatively low error (14%), between the recovery and optical response of cartilage in the combined NIR regions 5,450 to 6,100 cm−1 and 7,500 to 12,500 cm−1.


We conclude that ER can indicate the mechanical condition and state of health of articular cartilage. The correlation of ER with cartilage optical response in the NIR range could facilitate real-time evaluation of the tissue’s integrity during arthroscopic surgery and could also provide an important tool for cartilage assessment in tissue engineering and regeneration research.

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