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High-resolution imaging with contrast agent shows promise in osteoarthritis research

ournal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America and will appear in the only early edition during the week of Dec. 4. The National Science Foundation, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders, and the Arthritis Foundation funded the work.

Experiments conducted by Ph.D. student Ashley Palmer established the principles and protocol of EPIC-microCT. Researchers first immersed cartilage samples in the contrast agent solution and waited for the agent to diffuse into the tissue. Tissue with fewer negatively charged PGs absorbed more of the negatively charged contrast agent, and tissue with a higher PG concentration repelled it.

Researchers then used EPIC-microCT to detect the concentrations of the contrast agent, which allowed them to calculate the amount of PGs in different parts of the cartilage. Because degrading cartilage loses PGs over time, researchers could monitor the progression of tissue changes. In addition, differences in the X-ray signal of cartilage and bone allowed researchers to isolate the cartilage layer on a rabbit joint and determine its thickness, indicating that this technique also can be used to measure tissue thinning during disease progression.

In follow-on research funded by a new, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, the researchers will gather additional quantitative data and use the technique to examine the very thin cartilage of rat knee joints. Researchers will nondestructively evaluate osteoarthritis progression and then attempt to use this approach to monitor cartilage changes over time in vivo, or inside the same live animals.

"Ultimately, if we can monitor cartilage changes with good resolution and do it with little or no invasion of the tissue in live animals, then we can track osteoarthritis progression and the effects of drug therapy or other treatments over time," Guldberg said.

Researcher
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Contact: Jane M. Sanders
jsanders@gatech.edu
404-894-2214
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
4-Dec-2006


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