Author(s): Rieppo J, Hyttinen MM, Halmesmaki E, Ruotsalainen H, Vasara A,
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Abstract OBJECTIVES: The present study was designed to reveal changes in the collagen network architecture and collagen content in cartilage during growth and maturation of pigs. METHODS: Femoral groove articular cartilage specimens were collected from 4-, 11- and 21-month-old domestic pigs (n=12 in each group). The animal care conditions were kept constant throughout the study. Polarized light microscopy was used to determine the collagen fibril network birefringence, fibril orientation and parallelism. Infrared spectroscopy was used to monitor changes in the spatial collagen content in cartilage tissue. RESULTS: During growth, gradual alterations were recorded in the collagen network properties. At 4 months of age, a major part of the collagen fibrils was oriented parallel to the cartilage surface throughout the tissue. However, the fibril orientation changed considerably as skeletal maturation progressed. At 21 months of age, the fibrils of the deep zone cartilage ran predominantly at right angles to the cartilage surface. The collagen content increased and its depthwise distribution changed during growth and maturation. A significant increase of the collagen network birefringence was observed in the deep tissue at the age of 21 months. CONCLUSIONS: The present study revealed dynamic changes of the collagen network during growth and maturation of the pigs. The structure of the collagen network of young pigs gradually approached a network with the classical Benninghoff architecture. The probable explanation for the alterations is growth of the bone epiphysis with simultaneous adaptation of the cartilage to increased joint loading. The maturation of articular cartilage advances gradually with age and offers, in principle, the possibility to influence the quality of the tissue, especially by habitual joint loading. These observations in porcine cartilage may be of significance with respect to the maturation of human articular cartilage.
This article was published in Osteoarthritis Cartilage
and referenced in Journal of Arthritis