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J Acoust Soc Am. 2017 May;141(5):3105. doi: 10.1121/1.4979339.

Regular chondrocyte spacing is a potential cause for coherent ultrasound backscatter in human articular cartilage.

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Lizzi Center for Biomedical Engineering, Riverside Research, New York, New York 10038, USA.
Department of Applied Physics, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, FI-70211, Kuopio, Finland.
Berlin-Brandenburg School for Regenerative Therapies, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Augustenburger Platz, 133 53 Berlin, Germany.
Department of Orthopaedics, Traumatology and Hand Surgery, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland.


The potential of quantitative ultrasound (QUS) to assess the regular cellular spacing in the superficial cartilage zones was investigated experimentally and numerically. Nine osteochondral samples, extracted from two human cadaver knee joints, were measured using a 50-MHz ultrasound scanning device and evaluated using Mankin score. Simulated backscattered power spectra from models with an idealized cell alignment exhibited a pronounced frequency peak. From the peak, cell spacing in the range between 15 and 40 μm between cell layers was detected with an average error of 0.2 μm. The mean QUS-based cell spacing was 28.3 ± 5.3 μm. Strong correlation (R2 = 0.59, p ≤ 0.001) between spacing estimates from light microscopy (LM) and QUS was found for samples with Mankin score ≤3. For higher scores, QUS-based spacing was significantly higher (p ≤ 0.05) compared to LM-based spacing. QUS-based spacing estimates together with other QUS parameters may serve as future biomarkers for detecting early signs of osteoarthrosis.


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