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J Orthop Res. 2007 Jul;25(7):873-83.

Cartilaginous deposits in subchondral bone in regions of exposed bone in osteoarthritis of the human knee: histomorphometric study of PRG4 distribution in osteoarthritic cartilage.

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  • 1Tissue Engineering, VA Boston Healthcare System, Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02130, USA.


The objective of this study was to identify and characterize cartilaginous deposits aggregates in the subchondral bone in areas of the human osteoarthritic knee with exposed bone. A specific aim was to determine the distribution of the joint lubrication molecule, lubricin/superficial zone protein [referred to by its gene, proteoglycan4 (PRG4)], in these cartilaginous deposits and in osteoarthritic cartilage. This work was carried out in the context of assessing the potential contribution of these chondrocyte aggregates for joint resurfacing in certain cartilage repair procedures. The discarded bone cuts of femoral condyles and tibial plateaus were collected from 11 patients with advanced osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee during total knee arthroplasty; 9 women and 2 men with a mean age of 68 years. Sections of paraffin-embedded tissue were stained with Safranin-O, and with antibodies to type II collagen, alpha-smooth muscle actin (SMA), and PRG4. Chondrocyte aggregates were found in the subchondral bone of regions of exposed bone in sections from five individuals. The average diameter of cartilaginous aggregates was 152 microm, and the average depth of the aggregates below the surface was about 475 microm. Most aggregates were fibrocartilaginous and stained positive for type II collagen. Of interest was the finding that the cartilaginous deposits and osteoarthritic cartilage contained PRG4. Only a small percentage of chondrocytes stained positive for SMA. Cartilaginous deposits containing chondrocyte aggregates exist in subchondral bone in regions of exposed bone in some patients with advanced OA of the knee. These cells may be able to contribute to the resurfacing of the joint in certain cartilage repair procedures.

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