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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2012 May;20(5):396-404. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2012.01.015. Epub 2012 Feb 11.

Is cartilage sGAG content related to early changes in cartilage disease? Implications for interpretation of dGEMRIC.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Sciences Malmö, Lund University, Department of Orthopaedics, Skåne University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden.



This study investigates sulphated glycosaminoglycans (sGAG) content changes in early osteoarthritis (OA), and whether contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of cartilage in vitro may identify early event of OA pathology.


Osteochondral plugs from patients with hip OA or femoral neck fracture (reference group) were collected and analysed by 1.5 T MRI with ΔR1 as a measure of cartilage contrast concentration. Cartilage hydration, contents of sGAG, cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), hydroxyproline, denatured collagen, and aggrecan TEGE(392) neoepitope were determined and histological grading was performed.


sGAG content correlated to ΔR1, although no difference in either of these parameters was detectable between OA and reference cartilage at 4 h of contrast equilibration. In contrast, biochemical analysis of other cartilage matrix constituents showed distinct alterations typical for early cartilage degradation in OA cartilage and with clear evidence for increased aggrecan turnover.


In the present in vitro study, cartilage sGAG content could not distinguish between early OA cartilage and reference cartilage. Given, that delayed gadolinium enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC) indicates early events in the pathogenesis of OA in vivo, our results from the in vitro studies imply other, additional factors than cartilage sGAG content, e.g., alterations in diffusion or increased supply of contrast agent in the diseased joint. Alternatively, an altered dGEMRIC reflects later stages of OA, when sGAG content decreases. Further investigations are warranted, to understand variations in sGAG content in pathology, an essential background for interpreting dGEMRIC measurements.

Copyright © 2012 Osteoarthritis Research Society International. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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