We are currently using MR micro-imaging to investigate changes in structure of cartilage during degradation and to compare the behaviour of normal and degraded cartilage under mechanical load. The aim of the work is to better understand the changes that occur to the molecular structure of cartilage in osteoarthritis and develop improved methods of diagnosis.
- Research leader
- Research team
- Organisational unit
- Lead unit Science and Engineering Faculty
- Research areas
Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the elderly. It involves degradation of cartilage in the joints, resulting in pain and loss of mobility. Diagnosis of osteoarthritis is hampered by the fact that cartilage is invisible on X-rays, which limits them to inferring gross erosion of the cartilage from the reduced separation of the bone surfaces (Fig 1a). Arthroscopy (Fig 1b) is invasive and only reveals changes affecting the articular surface of cartilage.
Cartilage is visible on conventional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans (Fig 2a), but interpretation of the images is complicated by the complex molecular structure of the tissue, in which collagen fibres form an 'arcade' structure, starting off normal to the subchondral bone and bending over as they approach the articular surface (Fig. 2b). Until now, this anisotropic molecular structure has only been observable using destructive methods such as scanning electron microscopy or polarized light microscopy. Diffusion tensor imaging, (DTI), an MRI method which probes molecular structure via the motion of tissue water molecules, has been used to reveal the anisotropic structure of the collagen fibres non-invasively (Fig. 2c).