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ABSTRACT: Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease characterised by degradation of articular cartilage and bone remodelling. For almost a decade chondrocyte apoptosis has been investigated as a possible mechanism of cartilage damage in OA, but its precise role in initiation and/or progression of OA remains to the determined. The aim of this study is to determine the role of chondrocyte apoptosis in spontaneous animal models of OA. Right tibias from six male Dunkin Hartley (DH) and Bristol Strain 2 (BS2) guinea pigs were collected at 10, 16, 24 and 30 weeks of age. Fresh-frozen sections of tibial epiphysis were microscopically scored for OA, and immunostained with caspase-3 and TUNEL for apoptotic chondrocytes. The DH strain had more pronounced cartilage damage than BS2, especially at 30 weeks. At this time point, the apoptotic chondrocytes were largely confined to the deep zone of articular cartilage (AC) with a greater percentage in the medial side of DH than BS2 (DH: 5.7%, 95% CI: 4.2-7.2), BS2: 4.8%, 95% CI: 3.8-5.8), p > 0.05). DH had a significant progression of chondrocyte death between 24 to 30 weeks during which time significant changes were observed in AC fibrillation, proteoglycan depletion and overall microscopic OA score. A strong correlation (p ≤ 0.01) was found between chondrocyte apoptosis and AC fibrillation (r = 0.3), cellularity (r = 0.4) and overall microscopic OA scores (r = 0.4). Overall, the rate of progression in OA and apoptosis over the study period was greater in the DH (versus BS2) and the medial AC (versus lateral). Chondrocyte apoptosis was higher at the later stage of OA development when the cartilage matrix was hypocellular and highly fibrillated, suggesting that chondrocyte apoptosis is a late event in OA.
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ABSTRACT: The belief that an intervertebral disc must degenerate before it can herniate has clinical and medicolegal significance, but lacks scientific validity. We hypothesised that tissue changes in herniated discs differ from those in discs that degenerate without herniation. Tissues were obtained at surgery from 21 herniated discs and 11 non-herniated discs of similar degeneration as assessed by the Pfirrmann grade. Thin sections were graded histologically, and certain features were quantified using immunofluorescence combined with confocal microscopy and image analysis. Herniated and degenerated tissues were compared separately for each tissue type: nucleus, inner annulus and outer annulus. Herniated tissues showed significantly greater proteoglycan loss (outer annulus), neovascularisation (annulus), innervation (annulus), cellularity/inflammation (annulus) and expression of matrix-degrading enzymes (inner annulus) than degenerated discs. No significant differences were seen in the nucleus tissue from herniated and degenerated discs. Degenerative changes start in the nucleus, so it seems unlikely that advanced degeneration caused herniation in 21 of these 32 discs. On the contrary, specific changes in the annulus can be interpreted as the consequences of herniation, when disruption allows local swelling, proteoglycan loss, and the ingrowth of blood vessels, nerves and inflammatory cells. In conclusion, it should not be assumed that degenerative changes always precede disc herniation. Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2013;95-B:1127-33.
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