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Biogerontology. 2002;3(5):257-64.

Aging, articular cartilage chondrocyte senescence and osteoarthritis.

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Department of Orthopaedics, College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


The incidence of osteoarthritis (OA), the disease characterized by joint pain and loss of joint form and function due to articular cartilage degeneration, is directly correlated with age. The strong association between age and increasing incidence of osteoarthritis (OA) marks OA as an age related disease. Yet, like many other age related diseases, OA is not an inevitable consequence of aging; instead, aging increases the risk of OA. Articular cartilage aging changes that may lead to articular cartilage degeneration include fraying and softening of the articular surface, decreased size and aggregation of proteoglycan aggrecans and loss of matrix tensile strength and stiffness. These changes most likely are the result of an age related decrease in the ability of chondrocytes to maintain and repair the tissue manifested by decreased mitotic and synthetic activity, decreased responsiveness to anabolic growth factors and synthesis of smaller less uniform aggrecans and less functional link proteins. Our recent work suggests that progressive chondrocyte senescence marked by expression of the senescence associated enzyme beta-galactosidase, erosion of chondrocyte telomere length and mitochondrial degeneration due to oxidative damage causes the age related loss of chondrocyte function. New efforts to prevent the development and progression of OA might include strategies that slow the progression of chondrocyte senescence or replace senescent cells.

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