The initial repair response of articular cartilage after mechanically induced damage

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The regenerative potential of articular cartilage (AC) defects is limited and depends on defect size, biomechanical conditions, and age. Early events after overloading might be predictive for cartilage degeneration in the long term. Therefore, the present aim is to investigate the temporal response of cartilage to overloading at cell, matrix, and tissue level during the first period after mechanical overloading. In the present study, the effect of high loading (˜8 MPa) at a high rate (˜14 MPa/s) at day 0 during a 9 day period on collagen damage, gene expression, cell death, and biochemical composition in AC was investigated. A model system was developed which enabled culturing osteochondral explants after loading. Proteoglycan content was repeatedly monitored over time using μCT, whereas other evaluations required destructive measurements. Changes in matrix related gene expressions indicated a degenerative response during the first 6 h after loading. After 24 h, this was restored and data suggested an initial repair response. Cell death and microscopic damage increased after 24 h following loading. These degradative changes were not restored within the 9 day culture period, and were accompanied by a slight loss of proteoglycans at the articular surface that extended into the middle zones. The combined findings indicate that high magnitude loading of articular cartilage at a high rate induces an initial damage that later initiates a healing response that can probably not be retained due to loss of cell viability. Consequently, the matrix cannot be restored in the short term. © 2016 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res

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