Electromechanical probe and automated indentation maps are sensitive techniques in assessing early degenerated human articular cartilage

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Recent advances in the development of new drugs to halt or even reverse the progression of Osteoarthritis at an early-stage requires new tools to detect early degeneration of articular cartilage. We investigated the ability of an electromechanical probe and an automated indentation technique to characterize entire human articular surfaces for rapid non-destructive discrimination between early degenerated and healthy articular cartilage. Human cadaveric asymptomatic articular surfaces (four pairs of distal femurs and four pairs of tibial plateaus) were used. They were assessed ex vivo: macroscopically, electromechanically, (maps of the electromechanical quantitative parameter, QP, reflecting streaming potentials), mechanically (maps of the instantaneous modulus, IM), and through cartilage thickness. Osteochondral cores were also harvested from healthy and degenerated regions for histological assessment, biochemical analyses, and unconfined compression tests. The macroscopic visual assessment delimited three distinct regions on each articular surface: Region I was macroscopically degenerated, region II was macroscopically normal but adjacent to regions I and III was the remaining normal articular surface. Thus, each extracted core was assigned to one of the three regions. A mixed effect model revealed that only the QP (p < 0.0001) and IM (p < 0.0001) were able to statistically discriminate the three regions. Effect size was higher for QP and IM than other assessments, indicating greater sensitivity to distinguish early degeneration of cartilage. When considering the mapping feature of the QP and IM techniques, it also revealed bilateral symmetry in a moderately similar distribution pattern between bilateral joints. © 2016 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res

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